In a business move that sounds like science
fiction, Paypal is developing an online payment system for space
travelers, the company announced Thursday.
While the announcement smacks of a publicity stunt, Paypal spokesman Anuj Nayar insists that with the maiden voyage of Virgin Galactic expected late this year, the day is not far off when space tourists, astronauts and other extra-terrestrial travelers will need a way to buy things.
"Our initiative is focusing on the big questions as we start to conduct commerce in space," Nayar told dpa. "Every single sci-fi show has galactic credit, but in our world it's glossed over."
Nayar sees the day in the not so distant future when a space tourist on Virgin, an astronaut on the space station or a guest at the space hotel planned for 2016 by Russian company Orbital Technologies will want to buy a morning cup of coffee, a space souvenir or simply to take care of an overdue credit card payment - from orbit.
"How will they do that? With roubles?" he asked. "How does customer support and government regulation work up in space for space tourists and colonies? How will fraud and risk models look?"
He acknowledges that the questions are too complex for one company, even one with the online financial clout of Paypal, to answer. The company is teaming up with SETI institute, which is leading the search for extra-terrestrial life, as well as with legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin, to examine the issues.
Nayar said: "We don't know the answers yet - we don't even know the questions."
"We may not answer these questions today or even this year, but one thing is clear, we won't be using cash in space," PayPal president David Marcus said. "We look forward to pushing payments from our world to the next, and beyond."
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