Space Commerce

PayPal Launches PayPal Galactic but We’re Not Sure Why

By Marc Boucher
June 27, 2013
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PayPal Launches PayPal Galactic but We’re Not Sure Why
Artist illustration of a Moon base.
Pat Rawlings/PayPal

In what can only be described as a bizarre news conference today, PayPal President David Marcus introduced PayPal Galactic. What is PayPal Galactic? According to Marcus, it’s a visionary program being spearheaded by PayPal to bring together the leaders in the space industry to work on the “big questions” related to the commercialization of space.

“As space tourism programs are opening space travel to ‘the rest of us’ this drives questions about the commercialization 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.


Those questions include but are not limited to:

What will our standard currency look like in a truly cash-free interplanetary society?
How will the banking systems have to adapt?
How will risk and fraud management systems need to evolve?
What regulations will we have to conform with?
How will our customer support need to develop?

While these may be questions worth considering at some point, don’t you need to have a marketplace? Or at least the hope of one in the short term? Say 5-10 years?

Currently there are no more than nine people in space at any given time. Six on the International Space Station and every couple of years, maybe three Chinese.

And those space tourists using Virgin Galactic or XCOR on suborbital flights someday? I think they’ll be busy in their very short time in space to worry about getting online and buying something.

“Within five to ten years the earliest types of ‘space hotels’ and orbital and lunar commerce will be operational and in need of a payment system,” said John Spencer, founder and president of the Space Tourism Society.

Spencer might be a very optimistic with his statement. The odds of there being lunar commerce in the next 10 years are slim. There is no government or private entity that has committed funds to building a lunar base.

Maybe, just maybe, there will be a Bigelow space hotel in the 10 years that a few people will use.

The type of space commercialization talked about today is not years away, it’s decades.

The one interesting tidbit from the news conference was the announcement of a crowdfunding campaign for the SETI Institute on FundRazr launched by Paypal. Presumably this is PayPal’s way in supporting space as it seems to have little to do with the purpose of PayPal Galactic.

“PayPal and the SETI Institute are well-matched to work on PayPal Galactic because together we can create a recipe for innovation,” said Jill Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for the SETI Institute. “PayPal envisions exploring possibilities in space the way that we do, breaking boundaries to make real progress. When the SETI Institute succeeds in its exploration of the universe, and as we find our place among the stars, PayPal will be there to facilitate commerce, so people can get what they need, and want, to live outside of our planet.”

Also present was Buzz Aldrin who said in a news release: “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.”

In the press release issued before the event it says: “Already the need for a galactic payment system exists. Astronauts inhabiting space stations still need to pay for life’s necessities–from their bills back on Earth to their entertainment, like music and e-books, while in space.”

And like most people on Earth who have an internet connection, if they need to pay for something, they’ll just do it online.

So, while the premise of PayPal Galactic might be useful someday, it’s just hard to imagine why it exists now.

Oh, and the launch of PayPal Galactic just happens to coincide with the the celebration of PayPal’s 15th Anniversary.

PayPal Galactic News Conference:

PayPal Galactic Introduction:

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.