PayPal Galactic Looks to Solve Payments in Space
PayPal Galactic debuts and seeks answers on how space commerce will work
June 27, 2013— -- Jedis used the galactic credit standard to pay for things. Citizens and cylons alike used cubits.
Both the universes of both "Star Wars" and "Battlestar Galactica" were science fiction, but what would it take to make a standardized space currency a reality?
That is among the questions serving as the launch pad for PayPal's latest initiative, PayPal Galactic. The money-transfer company is turning its gaze to the stars and trying to figure out what has to happen in order to do business in space. How will banks adapt to space business? What regulations would apply? What will the standard currency even look like?
The initiative's website debuted on Wednesday night. David Marcus, the president of PayPal, and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin will make a formal announcement on Thursday.
The event will be live-streamed at paypal-galactic.com.
Anuj Nayar, the senior director of public relations for PayPal, realizes how absurd it sounds. Both he and his coworkers had no idea whether they would be taken seriously.
"We quietly asked ourselves and other leaders in the space community, 'Are we smoking crack?'" he told ABC News.
Both the SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and the Space Tourism Society were thankful that PayPal was asking these kinds of questions.
John Spencer, founder of the STS, said that the timing could not have been better.
"We're in a space renaissance right now," said Spencer.
NASA may view that rosy outlook differently, but there isn't much denying that many private companies across the world are interested in space travel.
PayPal saw that multiple companies of different nationalities were looking to do business in space. Nayar and others at PayPal saw how this mimicked what the company does on a daily basis.
"From our point of view, it's an interesting exercise to see how you would create a commercial system if you were free from all the existing old-wall infrastructure," Nayar said.
One question that Spencer saw becoming an issue is where space would fall under regulatory guidelines. The Madrid Protocol banned commercial mining for resources in Antarctica.
"The moon and Antarctica are similar, so does Planetary Resources have the right to mine asteroids?" Spencer asked. "Who does?"
PayPal Galactic knows that it's asking very big questions and that it will require the cooperation of many different organizations, from other tech companies to bank officials and government agencies.
"We're not saying that PayPal has the answer, but it's important for the industry to ask questions," Nayar said.
One thing he was sure about was that there won't be any ATMs in space.
"Could you even imagine a space shuttle just for bringing up bank notes?" he asked.