PayPal Galactic looks to corner the space payments market

June 27, 2013

PayPal announced the launch of a new mobile payments option Thursday — really, really mobile. With PayPal Galactic, the company wants to dominate the extraterrestrial payments market.

It sounds slightly nutty, but in an announcement Thursday that featured astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the company laid out some clear ideas about why it wants to pursue this right now.

Space tourism, while not exactly a widely popular getaway option, now firmly falls into the realm of possibility, thanks to companies such as Virgin Galactic, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk’s Space X, and Space Adventures, which provide civilian space services or sell tickets to the stars.

“We want to make sure that PayPal is the preferred way to pay from space and in space,” said David Marcus, PayPal’s president, in a promotional video for the service.

There’s money to be made out there — particularly if you’re the first to solve the obvious problems of connectivity, security and, well, the fact that space doesn’t have a recognized currency, fiscal regulatory agency or really any payments infrastructure at all.

PayPal is working with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute on the project, and astronomer Jill Tarter — a former SETI director who now serves as an endowed chair at the institute — said in a statement that it’s important for companies like PayPal to “facilitate commerce” in order to set up a functioning society outside of this planet.

And, the company argues, there’s already a need for a payments system in space to serve astronauts whose bills and desire for good music and books haven’t stopped simply because they’ve left the atmosphere.

This article has been updated.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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