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How will you buy dinner in space? PayPal Galactic

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Before you consider space tourism, consider how you're going to pay for stuff once you’re there.

"Trips to mars, the moon, even orbit, will require that we provide astrotourists with as many comforts from home as possible, including paying each other," according to moon-walker Buzz Aldrin. (Just so you know, a 5-day stay at a space hotel could run about $984,000.)

That's why today, PayPal, eBay’s international e-commerce arm, announced the launch of PayPal Galactic. Keep connected to your accounts even when you're away from the planet!

It’s not an actual service right now, rather it’s an initiative, TIME explains, jointly launched with SETI Institute and Space Tourism Society, to start thinking about out how we might buy and sell stuff when we eventually engage in space commerce.

The project will ask the basic questions that might arise from economic exchanges in outer space: namely, how will we regulate interstellar commerce? Businessweek talks to space law professor Frans von der Dunk at the University of Nebraska:

There’s an existing treaty that maintains space as no man’s land, meaning no single nation can impose its currency, he said. But the practical solution is pretty easy. “If a U.S. astronaut wants to sell something on Mars to a Russian, if the latter accepts dollars, the deal could be made,” according to Von der Dunk. “If not, the former might have to come up with rubles or another currency the latter finds acceptable -- but existing currencies for the time being would certainly suffice.”

Doesn’t seem like there're any space-specific issues. In fact, the problems of space currencies sound like those that virtual currencies could solve. Although, there’s very little Internet in space...

“There are lots of important questions that the industry needs to answer,” PayPal president David Marcus told AP. “There are regulatory and technical issues, along with safety and even what cross-border trade will look like when there are not a lot of borders.”

PayPal expects these services will be needed in the next five to 10 years. The company declined to say how much it invested in the project.

And just for fun, in case colonies break away from earthly governments, here’s a list of "available" space currencies compiled by TIME: Space Bucks, Galactic Credits, Altairian Dollars or the quasi universal intergalactic denomination, and Buckazoids.

[Via Businessweek, TIME]

Video: PayPal

— By on June 27, 2013, 8:55 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure