Dennis Hope, "Head Cheese" of the Lunar Embassy Corporation in Nevada has offered several governments — including the U.S. — a huge chunk of money to solve their financial troubles.
So far, no country has accepted Hope's loan of The Delta, which is the currency system that he created to be used by those who own property on the moon. In 2001, Hope set up the Galactic Government to protect these nearly six million property owners.
For more than three decades, the Lunar Embassy Corporation has generated $11 million in revenue from selling extraterrestrial real estate. One acre of lunar property can be purchased for $19.99, plus $10 in shipping and handling, $1.51 in planetary and lunar tax and $2.50 for a copy of the official certificate of ownership.
In order to choose which piece of Terra Luna he wants to sell, Hope simply closes his eyes and randomly points to a moon diagram. The area is then colored in red to illustrate that it's no longer available and the owner is provided with images of their newly-purchased property, but these images are only available after a completed point of sale. Hope has also claimed ownership of Mars, Venus, Mercury, and one of Jupiter's moons and said that he doesn't "s ell in other planets because [he] can't find maps of them to carve out subdivisions."
According to Hope, more than 600 acres of land on the moon belongs to millions of people around the world, including celebrities, such as Barbara Walters, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Nicole Kidman, and former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush.
Some of these owners have big future plans for their properties, including a golf course, he says, which will get tricky, because "even a one-degree pitch would send the ball into outer space." The Lunar Embassy does not sell properties near historical landmarks, and Hope told us that he turned down a $50 million offer last year from someone who wanted to buy the entire northern region of the moon.
Dennis Hope chooses properties to sell by closing his eyes and randomly pointing at a spot on his moon diagram.
The real estate company currently has two full-time employees, 27 resellers and six ambassadors. To resell properties or become an ambassador, license-holders are required to pay a $60,000 fee and buy a certain number of properties monthly. Some people have called him a con artist.
How did it become possible for one man to claim ownership of so much property in outer space? It started in the 1970s when Hope was freshly divorced and quickly running out of money. He knew he could make a fortune selling real estate and turned his attention to outer space. After researching at a community college, Hope believed he had found a loophole based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which says that “no nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies," yet the document never mentions individuals.
On Nov. 22, 1980, the businessman filed a declaration of ownership for the moon with the United Nations, but never received a reply, which he believed to indicate that he'd succeeded. But experts disagree.
“I don’t see a loophole,” Ram Jakhu, law professor at the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal, told Stephen Ornes in Discover Magazine.“The moon is a common property of the international community, so individuals and states cannot own it. That’s very clear in the U.N. treaty. Individuals’ rights cannot prevail over the rights and obligations of a state. No one owns the moon. No one can own any property in outer space.”
Joanna Gabrynowiczi, a research professor and director at the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law, told us that it's "clear that any nation that is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty can not appropriate the moon. But it's unclear what will happen to these properties if the case finds itself in court in the future. China and Canada have each prosecuted an individual trying to sell lunar plots. The Moon, like the high seas, is a global commons."
But whether Hope's legally entitled to own celestial bodies or not, no one's stopping him, and his business is still operating. He calls other similar companies "criminals" for trying to sell properties that they do not own and compares his outer space acquisitions to kings in the 1500s who claimed lands before even going there.
Most customers will never get to see their purchases, but Hope explains that it's more of a novelty symbolizing hope for the future.
Filmmaker Simon Ennis has been working on Hope's story for the documentary “Lunarcy!” scheduled to air on EPIX on April 3. After his work with Hope, Ennis admitted in The New York Times that the Head Cheese offered him an acre of lunar land.
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