Posted by Allison on 4 April 2009, 10:22
While some people are starting to think seriously about the idea of a single currency for the whole world, it seems that a small group of earthlings are looking slightly further afield when it comes to creating a whole new currency.
This might be the most unusual type of currency yet, but who knows – if they know something we don't, the quid might just catch on and become the currency of choice in the future.
So what's all this talk of earthlings and looking further afield? The answer is simple – this is a space currency to rival anything we have here on earth.
Now you might think this is light years ahead of its time but in actual fact there could be a market for such a currency not too far in the future. A spin off from Richard Branson's Virgin Company – appropriately called Virgin Galactic – plans to make space travel accessible to anyone and everyone who is willing to pay what it takes to do it. While there is still some time to go before the first flights actually leave the ground here, some people feel that now is the right time to create a currency which is suitable for use on other planets and in orbit around the earth, rather than being used on it as we are currently used to.
It is a little bizarre therefore that the name of this brand new currency is very earthbound indeed. It is called the Quid, but it's got nothing to do with the slang term for the British pound. It stands for the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination, and it has been designed with the future very much in mind.
It doesn't look anything like any coins or banknotes you might have come across so far, but it does have something in common with the new wave of banknotes being introduced gradually in more countries around the world. The currency is made from polymer – a type of plastic that is used in many applications here on earth, although the grade that will be used for the Quid is suitable for use in space and indeed has been used frequently as such.
The new currency is being loosely termed as a coin, but is has little in common with any coins you will have seen before now. It looks more like a see through chocolate Minstrel than anything else, so you won't want to carry too many of them in your pocket. It may be a while before you will be using the Quid to pay for your outer space holiday and tip the waiters in the zero gravity restaurant, but if you have got the cash you could be blasting into space in just a few short month's time. Virgin Galactic reckons that 2009 could be the date when space travel is made possible for us regular humans who never grew up to be astronauts.
While it is hard to believe that you would want to spend your Quids on in-flight snacks on the first Virgin Galactic flight into space when you could be appreciating the feeling of being weightless for the first time in your life, we've all seen the pictures of astronauts trying to eat floating food, so it's always a possibility.
What is more likely is that this new unearthly currency is being launched on the back of all this publicity, to prepare us for the day when we can visit the Moon on our holidays and not just blast into space for a few precious moments. At least then all we will have to get used to is the feeling of being somewhere other than on earth, rather than having to familiarise ourselves with a new currency as well.
So what exactly does this new Quid look like then?
Well apart from being made of polymer and looking a bit like a chocolate, its appearance does fit its purpose very well. You might be wondering why we need a totally new shape of 'coin' at all – after all every coin in our history up to this point has been flat and round, so why the need for something different?
The truth is that flat and round might work on earth, but we've got gravity here and that is something that just doesn't exist up in space. If you drop a two pence piece while you are in orbit it could do some serious damage since it has relatively sharp edges. That's why the shape of the new Quid is soft looking; no edges, no sharp bits, and nothing to cause any injuries or damage if you did 'drop' one.
There are five denominations of Quid and you can tell each one apart from the others in two ways. Firstly as the 'coins' get higher in value they get larger, and secondly each one has a coloured centre which also helps to identify it. The name of the currency in its longest form runs around the centre of each Quid, and you can also see orbiting planets in their correct places going around the design itself.
There have already been statements made about the conversion rates if you were to swap your British pounds for the new Quid – you're looking at around £6.25 to get one Quid, although it isn't clear exactly what one Quid would buy you in the new currency. Perhaps that is because there really isn't too much to actually buy with it as yet.
So it really is a currency of the future, designed for a time when 'going abroad' for our holidays will take on a whole new meaning. Some people might think it is a little premature, but others think it's a great idea. After all no currency we have at present will fit the bill when it comes to serving us in space, and why shouldn't we have a totally new one for a totally new way of travelling?
It has to be said though that while the idea is a good one for the long term, the actual design of the Quid isn't the most user friendly one they could have come up with. As one person pointed out, these will take up a lot of room. You can't really cart too many of them about in your pockets; they won't weigh anything in space, true, but they still take up space and as such they could turn out to be a real pain. It might be a case of 'nice idea, but bad execution.'
Still it looks like we have a while yet to come up with something that builds on this initial idea and makes it work even better. It might work at the beginning but when space travel comes down in price (from the $200,000 per person that Virgin Galactic is currently asking) and we all start floating away on holiday it's pretty clear that we will need something more user friendly to stash away when we go into space.
But for now the Quid is all we have and it's not a bad start. If you are planning on being one of the first people to travel into space with Virgin Galactic though, you might just want to make sure you get a spacesuit with bigger pockets in it.