June 28, 2013
By Jim Moore
One by one, officials from the SETI Institute, Silicon Valley Space Center, and Space Tourism Society touted a future for mankind in space that includes races on the moon, permanent settlement of Mars, and, eventually, journeys to distant stars. The star of this June 27 show, hosted and webcast live by Internet finance giant PayPal, was astronaut and author Buzz Aldrin.
Four decades removed from setting foot on the moon during Apollo 11, Aldrin, 83, pitched his books, his vision for a future of space exploration, and even brought a T-shirt, “I’m theRealBuzz” written in white on blue, which he draped over the SETI institute’s podium with a mischievous smile.
Aldrin did not forget to mention the event’s organizers, noting (with PayPal President David Marcus looking on) that, “I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see PayPal Galactic pay for the small things, and the big ones.”
Exactly what PayPal Galactic will be, and how it will work, remain to be seen. Marcus said the announcement was the beginning of an answer, if not the answer, to a question bound to emerge as tourists climb aboard rocket ships: “What currency do we use in space?”
“Futurists expect space travel to follow what happened with air travel,” Marcus said. It is “not hard to imagine” ticket prices dropping to the thousands “in the next decade.”
So, how will they pay for their in-orbit coffee?
“We’re going to bring partners around the table to work on the big questions,” Marcus said.
John Spencer, founder and president of the Space Tourism Society, touted the rapid acceleration of an industry poised to shoot paying customers into orbit, and predicted that orbital cruise lines, “lunar yachting, races on the moon” will soon follow.
PayPal lent its support (if not a specified sum) to an online crowdfunding campaign on behalf of the SETI Institute, drawing private donations to finance grants.
“We will favor unique or innovative scientific research projects that may initiate new, funded research beyond the resources of the Curiosity Movement funds,” the institute states on its website. “We will select projects that bring prestige to the organization through events, workshops, and conferences that draw people to the SETI Institute. We will also support education and outreach projects that engage students, teachers and the public in the Institute’s scientific research.”
According to the website, $13,300 had been collected in the first 40 hours. The SETI Institute will work with PayPal on the details of crafting a space currency.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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