Ah, the Moon. Inspiration for a thousand paintings and the source of a million beautiful nights. Ancient cultures worshiped it, and astronauts were awed by it. How many of us have looked upon that beautiful orb and wondered, who owns that? What, just me? Even if you never thought to ask this before, you can’t deny it’s an interesting question. Not counting international waters, there aren’t many places on Earth that don’t belong to somebody. It just makes sense that someone would own the Moon too, right? So, who’s the rightful owner of the lunar landscape?
The answer to that question is going to depend on who you ask. It turns out people have been claiming the Moon long before anyone set foot on it. One such claim dates all the way back to 1756 when a man by the name of Aul Juergens received our Moon as a gift from the Prussian King Frederick the Great. How exactly an eighteenth-century monarch gained control of the Moon in the first place isn't entirely clear. Not to call old King Fred a liar, but I think he might have been making that up. What, being king of an actual country wasn't good enough?
Was this just his way of one-upping the Tzar? What's that, you're the sole monarch of all Russia? That's cool, I guess… but are you King of the Moon?! No? Just me? How awkward. Whatever, kings said a lot of weird things. Caligula declared war on the ocean and made his horse a Senator. Are there any more recent claims to Lunar domination? Preferably one from someone born after powdered wigs went out of fashion. Plenty of other people have made claims over the years, but the most prolific by far is an American businessman by the name of Dennis Hope. Back in the 1980s, Hope, who'd been without a job for about a year, realized that getting ahead in life often requires thinking outside of the box. By the box, I mean the atmosphere.
You see, even though the US landed on the Moon, that doesn't mean they actually own it. Planting a flag and calling dibs might have been good enough in the age of wooden ships, but the same thing wasn't going to fly in the modern era of international diplomacy. You see, in 1967, the US, UK and the Soviet Union signed a treaty establishing rules on how outer space was to be used. I'm going to call it the 'Outer Space Treaty,' because 'Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” has too many syllables.
This treaty bans the use of nuclear weapons in space and prohibits countries from establishing military bases on the Moon, or any other place on the Solar System. It also forbids all signatories from laying claim to any territory beyond the surface of the Earth. Effectively, the treaty turned space into the equivalent of international waters, a place anyone is allowed to go but no country can claim. This would be where most people throw in the space towel. Fortunately for Dennis Hope, and the runtime of this video, he isn’t most people. Hope took note of how the text of the treaty uses terms like “nations” and “states,” but never explicitly mentions individuals and corporations. Sensing a loophole in interplanetary law, Mr. Hope founded the Lunar Embassy Corporation and set about staking his claim. Now, how does one actually go about claiming the Moon? Well, you say it belongs to you then see if anyone disagrees. Hope did this by sending a letter to the United Nations stating his intent to claim the Moon and asking them to offer a legal reason he could not.
They never got back to him about that. Interpreting the UN’s silence as permission, he staked his claim and snagged a few extra planets for good measure. That’s right, he doesn't just own the Moon. As Founder and President of the Galactic Government, his estate also includes the planets of Mercury, Venus, and Mars, as well as non-planets like Pluto and Io, a moon of Jupiter. Wait, he owns Io but not Jupiter? Are gas giants not good enough for him? Seriously, what’s the standard here? Anyway, the point is that for as little as twenty dollars plus shipping, handling and what Hope calls “lunar tax,” you can have your very own chunk of the Moon. And why stop there? For the low, low price of just two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, you can own all of Pluto! Is that good? I mean, a frozen ball of ice on the edge of the solar system doesn’t exactly seem like prime real estate, but maybe I’m just not thinking big enough.
At this point you might be wondering who exactly he’s been selling to? While Hope isn't typically one to name names, as of 2013, he claimed that over five million people from over one hundred countries have purchased Lunar land ranging in size from a single acre to well over two million. That’s a lot of cheese! The Moon is made of cheese, right? Either way, some of Hope’s customers clearly have deep pockets and are said to include the former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan and George Bush senior. Also among his customers are celebrities such as Barbara Walters, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Nicole Kidman. Okay, I’d be surprised if Tom Cruise wasn’t on that list, but Walters? Seriously?
Now, this might all sound like an expensive joke, but Mr. Hope insists he is taking it seriously and hopes… Ahem. Intends to begin work on the first permanent Lunar colony by 2020. All of that is assuming he’s able to find a practical way of getting large groups of people there and back. Hey, he seems like a smart guy, I’m sure it will work out. Speaking of moon bases, he isn’t too keen on the idea of other countries muscling in on his claims. When China announced its intentions to one day establish a colony of their own on the Lunar surface, Dennis Hope was none too happy. Research missions are more than welcome but foreign powers better pay up before they start moving in.
Com on guys, there’s no need to fight. Plenty of Moon to go around. It's not precisely clear how Mr. Hope's Galactic Government intends to stop China, or anyone else for that matter, from landing on his planets without permission. At very least the offending nation should be prepared to receive several very strongly worded emails over the matter. Now, this has all been good fun, but just how strong are Mr. Hope's claims? If you bought a plot of land on the Moon, would you or your descendants actually be able to move there and open your very own helium mine? Hope says yes, as long as you by from him and not any of the dozens of other copycat businesses offering the same service. Not everyone shares his opinion, however.
The exact text that Mr. Hope points to as justifying his claim is from Article Two of the Outer Space Treaty. It reads, 'Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” In other words, governments cannot, under any circumstances, claim land in space. He asserts that as a private individual, not a nation, he can go ahead and claim whatever he wants. Unfortunately for any space prospectors out there, that’s not actually how property works. Something only belongs to you when the laws of the country you live in define it as yours. On top of that, pretty much every legal system defines land ownership as beginning when a sovereign nation stakes a claim. Only then can the rights be passed to private citizens.
You can see this for yourself if you ever happen to get your hands on a document called an abstract of title. This is essentially a history of every person or group that owned a particular plot of land. Tucked way, way, way in the back, you'll eventually find the name of the country that originally laid claim to it. What that means for Dennis Hope and his customers, is that the only way their claims could ever be considered valid was if his Galactic Government was recognized as its own nation. That will never happen, and if it somehow did, the GG would be forbidden from claiming land in space anyway. Man, I really wish I’d read that before buying a twenty-acre estate on the Moon. I was going to open a dude ranch and call it the Mood Ranch.
This is really disappointing. On the other hand, no one has challenged his claim as of yet. While it’s a long shot, the courts of the future might still find in his favor. What do you think? Let me know in the comments if buying land on the Moon sounds like a great investment or dreadful waste of money. And hey, if you learned something new today, then give this video a like and share it with a friend. But don’t go anywhere just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to check out. Just click on this left or right video and enjoy! Stay on the Bright Side of life!
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