3, 2, 1: PayPal Galactic Launches

eBay Inc. Staff

Once the stuff of science fiction, space tourism seems like it will become a reality in the not too distant future. That’s why today, PayPal launched PayPal Galactic, a joint initiative with the SETI Institute to bring together leaders in the space industry to work on the big questions around the commercialization of space.

“Space tourism programs are now opening up to all of us,” said PayPal President David Marcus, introducing the initiative at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Virgin Galactic hopes to open the world’s first commercial space airline next year, and a consortium plans to establish a space hotel in three years. “Our technology and product teams are real dreamers and implementers and innovators, and this made us ask the question: What currency will they be using?” Marcus said.

Although a $250,000 round-trip ticket is still out of the price range of most of today’s Earth residents, Marcus reminded us that back in 1935, a round trip ticket from New York to Los Angeles cost $4,500 – the equivalent of $80,000 today. Of course, in today’s market, that ticket costs more like $300. In the same way, he said, futurists expect space travel to become accessible to ordinary folk, perhaps within a decade.

While the initiative is preparing for a user base of civilians, the need for space payments exists today, Marcus pointed out. As he wrote on the PayPal Forward blog, “astronauts inhabiting space stations today 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.”

Marcus was joined at SETI by a group of space experts: Frank Drake, chairman emeritus of SETI and Margaret Race, SETI senior research scientist; John Spencer, founder and president of the Space Tourism Society; and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.

Aldrin reminisced about his experience at the dawn of the space age: “Four decades ago I walked on the moon with Neil Armstrong, and we set the impossible dream further ahead,” he said. That event “forever changed the relationship between man and space,” he said.

“The door to the space frontier certainly has been opened a crack. We’re gonna widen it. Trailblazers in the private sector have inspired the public to think bigger than what is on Earth, and aspire to go into space.”

Would Aldrin consider a return trip to space?

“I’ve been there,” he said with a laugh.