DALLAS, November 22, 2013 – According to a blog post by Virgin Group founder and billionaire futurist Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic now accepts the virtual currency Bitcoins.
“Virgin Galactic is a company looking into the future, so is Bitcoin. So it makes sense we would offer Bitcoin as a way to pay for your journey to space,” he wrote.
“One future astronaut, a female flight attendant from Hawaii, has already purchased her Virgin Galactic ticket using Bitcoins, and we expect many more to follow in her footsteps. All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right, and this is one more way to be forward-thinking.” [contextly_sidebar id=”9a99b154a2b7e3b0613ad7ea470b5c82″]
Branson’s endorsement is timely. This week, Patrick Murck, general counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation, pleaded for “sane” regulations of the virtual currency before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The inconclusive hearings were surprisingly friendly, offering hope that the currency is gaining legitimacy with federal officials. Bitcoin hit $700 during the Senate hearings.
Invented in 2008 by a group of programmers under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, the currency’s reputation has been tethered to shady online black marketplaces. As more legitimate merchants accept Bitcoins, its legitimacy edges closer to mainstream. Many remain skeptical of the new technology, but crypto-currency enthusiasts praise its potential.
As Distinguished Fellow of the Foundation for Economic Education Jeffrey Tucker noted, “Bitcoin proves that a money can emerge from within the market itself, based purely on voluntary behavior, and needs no privileged elites to manage it. We’re talking about reinventing the world’s monetary system…from the ground up.”
This beautiful anarchy undoubtedly concerns government; every technological innovation presents potential for criminal exploitation.
Bureaucrats from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCen) and Department of Homeland Security expressed fear that individuals using Tor anonymity software and the virtual currency to hide their activity will enable online black marketplaces.
Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, expressed the government’s concerns, “We anticipate that virtual currency will continue to evolve and grow in popularity. That growth inevitably will be accompanied by an increase in illicit transactions, which makes it critical that virtual currency services understand their legal obligations and requirements.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently shuttered the Silk Road, a hidden marketplace where individuals could purchase drugs, guns and other illicit goods using Bitcoins.
“I think, this is not a bubble, it represents a substantial paradigm shift,” Jeffrey Tucker said, of the currency’s latest boom. “In fact $600 per Bitcoin might be a thing of history, we might get it much –much higher.”
Branson agrees. “The days of carrying cash and coins could soon be over,” he predicts. “Sometime in the future, innovative payment models such as Square, Clinkle and Bitcoin will become serious challengers to traditional banks, which will spur more competition and give customers even more options.”
Virgin Galactic joins other merchants, including WordPress.com, Reddit, OkCupid and hundreds of online venues accepting Bitcoins.