The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

July 1, 2013

Other Views: Greetings, take me to your ATM

— At any given moment, there are only a handful of humans in space — in the International Space Station and, occasionally, some Chinese astronauts shot into orbit for a short ride.

What these astronauts have in common is courage and creditworthiness, even though more than one space pioneer has commented that their spacecraft and everything on it has been built by the lowest bidder.

As yet, there are no colonies on the moon or Mars, and, until we figure out how to launch souvenir stands and food trucks, there is nothing to buy. But the American consumer-credit industry, which apparently has more faith in the future of space exploration than NASA does, is already making arrangements for commerce in outer space.

The front-runner is eBay’s PayPal, which is working with the Space Tourism Society and the nonprofit SETI Institute, which began life as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The institute never found any, but true believers continue to look and may one day find a planet in the Goldilocks zone (not too hot, not too cold) that has a breathable atmosphere and accepts credit cards.

Visionaries think it’s not too early to think about how commerce will work in outer space. Says The Associated Press: “Questions to be answered include how commerce will be regulated and what currency will be used.” The answers: A whole lot better than it is on Earth; and the dollar, of course.

We would hate to think that the great human enterprise that is Earth is remembered solely for introducing the concept of late fees to the galaxy. It is probably not too early to think about trademarks: “Sagittarius Express. Don’t leave the galaxy without it.”

Nor is it too early to ponder the possibility that our first contact with extraterrestrial life is a bill collector for Citibank seeking to recoup money spent on a high-living visit to the Alpha Centauri system.

Use your credit wisely. The bill collector may have developed a taste for earthling flesh, having taken literally his, her — its? —- Introduction to Shakespeare course.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service

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