If someone tried to sell me the moon, I would dismiss them as con artists. So I was pretty surprised to learn about Denis Hope, a 65-year-old man from Gardnerville, Nevada, who runs a legit business selling land plots on the Moon, Mars, Venus, Io and Mercury. Of course, there’s no legal backing to all this, but there’s nobody stopping him either. As long as he’s able to make people smile, he says he can do anything he wants. He’s been in business since 1980.
Hope is a former-ventriloquist, now in the business of space real-estate. Some people view his work as the selling of ‘novelty items’ such as pet rocks and certificates. Others argue that he’s taking forth the age-old American tradition of land speculators selling plots of useless land. Hope admits that there are several others selling property in outer space, but the difference is that those people are criminal in their intent. He considers himself the legit owner of the Moon, so what he’s doing is all right. How come he is so confident, you ask? Well, he says this is as real as any other property you can buy on Earth, and that’s because he filed a declaration with the United Nations. Otherwise, Hope says he wouldn’t be selling at all.
Photo: NY Times video caption
So is Hope the real deal? Could he really get you ownership in outer space? He claims that honesty is a very integral part of his work ethic. “In 1980, I was going through a divorce and hadn’t worked in almost a year, and I was almost out of money,” he says. He thought if he had some property he could do something useful, and when he had that thought, he looked out of the window and saw the moon. “I thought to myself, there’s a lot of property.” That’s when he remembered the 1967 Outer Space Treaty as well. According to article 2 of that treaty, no nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies. But nowhere in the treaty did it mention anything about individuals, Hope realized. And he decided to grab on that loophole by filing a petition to ownership of the moon.
Photo: NY Times video caption
Hope says he sent a note to the UN that if they had a legal problem with his claim to ownership of the moon, they should let him know. But he’s never heard back from them, so he took that as a green signal to go ahead with his business. This isn’t credible enough for many, though. Ram Jakhu from the Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University, says pretty simply, “I don’t see a loophole.” According to Frans von der Dunk, professor of Space Law at the University of Nebraska, “It’s either a hollow claim or a fraud.” That’s not stopping Hope. So far, he’s sold 600 million acres on the moon alone at the rate of about 200 properties per day. Regardless of the location of the property, each one costs $19.99. And that’s not including the $1.51 lunar or planetary tax and the extra $2.50 to put the name on the document. Hope says he has over 5 million individual property owners in 193 countries on Earth.
The most interesting aspect of Hope’s work is how he selects the properties. When he has to choose the area of a planet to sell, he just covers his eyes and points his finger on a large map. Wherever his finger lands is what he ends up selling. But apart from just selling property, Hope has other ideas for development on the moon. He has plans and blueprints for a Lunar Embassy. His current idea is for a pyramid that will house embassies for every government on Earth. It all sounds pretty interesting until he mentions spaces for non-Earth based governments. That’s when he seems a wee bit loony to me. He claims that these governments are ‘here’ and he is in touch with them. He started his own ‘Moon government’ in 2004 and says that they are now a fully recognized sovereign nation. It gets extremely bizarre when he mentions Rigley Pop who emailed him in 1999 claiming ownership of the Sun, asking for a charge of $30 million a year for all the energy put out for all the planetary bodies that Hope owns. Hope handled that pretty well, he just replied, “We don’t want your energy, please turn it off.”
Either Hope is a fantastic scam artist, or just plain crazy. Either way, it’s very interesting to hear him speak of such things in the most serious tone. In his own words, “I had an idea, and I followed through for the last 30 years.” How many of us can claim to have done that?