As any seasoned space traveler can tell you, it's very irritating to find yourself stranded on a distant planet and you get the urge to call home but discover that you have no cash in the local currency and have to run around asking aliens for directions to the nearest exchange kiosk. Fortunately, PayPal and the SETI Institute are about to make that a problem of the past.
The online payment processor and the SETI Institute and Space Tourism Society announced on Thursday that they would be working together to create a "universal space payment" system and a standard currency that could be used in interplanetary transactions.
While the project might sound a little far-fetched, neither organization is looking to use the new currency system to establish trade routes with alien civilizations, even in spite of the fact that "SETI" stands for "search for extraterrestrial intelligence." Rather, they are banking on the emerging space tourism industry.
"As space tourism programs are opening space travel to 'the rest of us' this drives questions about the commercialisation of space. We are launching PayPal Galactic, in conjunction with leaders in the scientific community, to increase public awareness of the important questions that need to be addressed," said David Marcus, PayPal's President. "We may not answer these questions today or even this year, but one thing is clear, we won't be using cash in space."
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was on hand at the announcement to share his perspective on PayPal Galactic and said that he believes it will be important to bring as many amenities as possible into space to encourage tourists to leave the planet.
"Trips to Mars, the moon, even orbit will require we provide astronauts and astro-tourists with as many comforts from home as possible, including how to pay each other," said Astronaut and author Buzz Aldrin. "Whether it's paying a bill, even helping a family member on Earth, we'll need access to money. I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime. When that happens I won't be surprised if people use PayPal Galactic for the little things and the big ones."
The SETI Institute estimates that in as little as five to ten years, "space hotels" and lunar-based tourism will be developed enough to require its own payment system.