On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts stepped onto the moon and planted an American flagâ€”not to claim the moon but simply to commemorate the U.S. role in the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Forty years after Apollo 11, a Nevada entrepreneur says he owns the moon and that he’s interim president of the first known galactic government.
Dennis Hope, head of the Lunar Embassy Corporation, has sold real estate on the moon and other planets to about 3.7 million people so far.
As his customer base grew, he said, buyers wanted assurances that their property rights would be protected.
So Hope started his own government in 2004, which has a ratified constitution, a congress, a unit of currencyâ€”even a patent office.
“We’re now a fully realized sovereign nation,” Hope said.
The trouble is that, legally, nobody can own the moon or anything else in space, for that matter, said Tanja Masson-Zwaan, president of the International Institute of Space Law, based in the Netherlands.
“What Lunar Embassy is doing does not give people buying pieces of paper the right to ownership of the moon,” she said. …
The controversy began in 1980, when Hope registered his claim to the moon with the United Nations. The claim went unanswered, so he figured his rights were secured.
To date his company has sold more than 2,500,000 1-acre (0.4-hectare) plots of lunar land, which Hope says are rich in an isotope of helium that has an earthly price tag of about U.S. $125,000 an ounce.
Today a deed for a plot, printed with the buyer’s name, is selling online for $22.49, plus tax.
Legal experts counter that the UN didn’t answer because it didn’t have to: The moon is unclaimable under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which has so far been ratified by 100 UN member countries, including the United States.
Hope, however, said there’s a loophole.
The treaty prohibits countries from claiming property in space, but “I filed my claim of ownership as an individual.”
The fact that he’s now claiming his Galactic Government has legal authority over the moon might seem problematic. But Hope said that the fledgling regime isn’t a member of the UN and so doesn’t have to abide by its laws.
Regardless of his current stance, Hope’s original claim to the moon is simply not legal, the space-law institute’s Masson-Zwaan asserts.
The UN treaty does apply to governments and their private citizens, which invalidates Hope’s claim to the moon and other celestial bodies, she said.
But that shouldn’t disappoint any prospective moon millionaires.
You don’t need to own a place to make money on it, Masson-Zwaan said. But you do need a clear legal framework for doing business on the propertyâ€”something the moon currently lacks….
Recently, Hope said, he’s been sending letters on behalf of his government asking other countries not to trespass on the moon without a license.
He’s also battling the International Monetary Fund for official recognition of his government’s currency, called the delta.
“The position of the Galactic Government is that we’re not trying to distance ourselves from other governments. We just want recognition so we can work together,” Hope said.
“We’re not hostile, not angryâ€”we just want to be accepted.”
We can no more own the Earth than a flea can own a dog.