It seems like experts are always telling us that the road to financial success is paved with real estate. And it’s hard to argue, especially looking at skyrocketing prices in major urban centers over the past decade. But some people out there feel like there is an even more exciting real estate opportunity to be had, one a little further from home. The moon. In fact, Nevada man Dennis Hope has already laid claim to it and has been selling pieces of it for nearly 40 years. So, the question is, does anyone really own the moon?
Think you can name all the countries that have explored the moon?
The Legal Side
Back in the 60’s, space exploration was all the rage and “The Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union was in full swing. Each new development or launch – successful or not – was considered must-see viewing around the world. With such rapid progress taking place, it seemed as though it wouldn’t be long before the last great frontier would start to resemble an exciting new suburb, filled with space shuttles jockeying for space and racing to stake their claims.
In 1967, to guard against unscrupulous development and unethical practices, the United Nations passed the Outer Space Treaty, outlining the rules regarding all celestial bodies. It was intended to create agreement between nations with regard to space exploration. In simple terms, it stated the following:
- Exploration would be open to all nations.
- Exploration should be done for the benefit of all. All astronauts should be considered representative of all of mankind.
- No weapons of mass destruction would be allowed in orbit or on any surrounding celestial bodies (i.e. the moon).
- Further to that, it stated that all celestial bodies are to be used solely for peaceful purposes.
- It clarified that each state is responsible for the activities undertaken by its citizens, whether or not the government was directly involved, and that it would be liable for any damage or harm that was to occur.
- Finally, the key point that applies here was that “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.
This final statement would seem to make it clear that, no, it is not possible to “own” any part of the moon. Unless, of course, there was a technicality to exploit…
The Crazy Side
In 1980, after reviewing the Outer Space Treaty, Dennis Hope (who we mentioned earlier) noticed that while it specifically disallowed states from staking claim to celestial bodies, it said nothing about individuals. Considering this a loophole, he contacted the UN with his claim. He never heard back which, in his mind, means his claim has never been denied and is, therefore, perfectly valid. Legitimate or not, the former used car salesman claims that over the past four decades he has made millions of dollars selling moon land to such notable figures as former presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter.
Meanwhile, at Lunar Land, “the Earth’s Oldest, Most Recognized Celestial Real Estate Agency”, an acre can be purchased for as little $29.99. Although if you are going to go to the trouble of buying land on the moon, why not pay the extra $40 for the Deluxe plan to receive a framed title deed with your name on it? Whichever you choose, rest assured that all plans include “futuristic packaging”.
The Future of Owning the Moon
In 1979, order to address growing concerns regarding moon exploration, the UN put together a “Moon Agreement” that essentially outlined similar guidelines as the Outer Space Treaty, but specifically focused on the moon. However, while 98 countries ratified the original agreement, just 22 are officially on board with the newer version. Those 22 countries do not include Russia, China, or the United States. Which limits its usefulness, to say the least. As we speak, China has successfully sprouted seeds on the moon and are actively planning to set up a base. If they can work out a lease agreement with owner, Dennis Hope, that is.
Joking aside, no, it is not legally possible to own land on the moon. Most experts agree that treaties applying to nations apply equally to their individual citizens, nullifying Hope’s claim. Apparently, however, that doesn’t mean there is anything stopping someone from selling land on it, assuming they can find the right combination of rich and crazy. Before you get too excited, though, Tom Cruise already bought some.