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PayPal Goes Galactic, Moves to Cash In on Space Payments

Thursday, 27 Jun 2013 | 11:58 AM ET
PayPal Shoots for the Stars
Thursday, 27 Jun 2013 | 10:22 AM ET
David Marcus, PayPal president, discusses the company's initiative to set up a new payment system for future space tourists.

PayPal is exploring a new business opportunity: space payments.

Though the idea may sound out of this world, the nascent space tourism industry is set to take off in the next decade, and humans will need a way to pay for things in space as well as send payments to Earth, said PayPal President David Marcus.

(Read More: Six Things I Learned From Richard Branson )

"As leaders in online payments, it's kind of our duty to lead the way on how commerce in space will happen. This is a big problem that needs to be solved," Marcus told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

To address this "big problem," the company, which is owned by Ebay, has enlisted the Space Tourism Society and the SETI Institute to help it launch PayPal Galactic (yes, that's the real name), an initiative to devise solutions.

(Read More: The Next PayPal? Stripe Cashes In on Online Payments )

Space payments are still at least a decade in the future, Marcus said, but some basic questions need to be answered. For example, he said, "If you become a merchant in space, what is the currency ... that you're going to accept? How do you manage dispute? What's an IP address from space look like? How do you do all of theses things, and what government has regulation authority over space?

"Those are big problems that will take years to be solved, and we just want to start the conversation," he added.

PayPal hosted a conference for its new initiative on Thursday at the SETI Institute to discuss why they were venturing into the space business. Speakers from the SETI Institute, the Space Tourism Society and the Silicon Valley Space Center also voiced the necessity of payments in space at the event.

(Read More: PayPal Makes Moves to Woo Back Start-Ups )

But the guest of honor at the conference was astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who shared his excitement about the growing space tourism industry and PayPal's involvement in helping develop a payment infrastructure.

"The future of space is really limitless and the door to the space frontier certainly has been opened, cracked and we're going to widen it," Aldrin said. "Trailblazers in the private sector have inspired us to think of what is bigger than Earth...We are only a generation away from a permanent human residency on Mars."

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.

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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

  • Cadie Thompson is a tech reporter for the Enterprise Team for CNBC.com.

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.

  • Jon Fortt is an on-air editor. He covers the companies, start-ups, and trends that are driving innovation in the industry.

  • Lipton is CNBC's technology correspondent, working from CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau.

  • Mark is CNBC's Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bureau Chief covering technology and digital media.