Meet the man who owns the moon

Former used car salesman, Dennis Hope, has made millions selling acres of lunar space to Hollywood celebrities and former US presidents.

Meryl D'Souza November 28, 2016

According to Gulf News, now is a great time to buy property in Dubai. The story cites data from the consultancy Reidin-GCP which goes on to say that completed villas are going for “11 per cent off their 2014 highs” and apartments are “on average 13 per cent lower from their mid-2014 peaks”.

What if you’re just looking for a holiday home though? Some place you don’t see yourself living in indefinitely, but a place that’s interesting enough to make your holiday worth it. You could go for that sprawling mansion in California or you could go for a place that’s – quite literally – out of this world.

Back in the 1980s, Dennis Hope was freshly divorced and quickly running out of money. A former used car salesman, Hope turned to the real estate business to catch a break. It was on a mid-summer drive when – we kid you not – he looked out the window and saw more unclaimed property than he could possibly fathom: the moon.

Hope raced to a nearby community college library and looked up the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Sure enough, the man found a loophole that states, “no nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies," yet the document never mentioned anything about individual ownership. 

On November 22, 1980, Hope filed a declaration of ownership for the moon with the United Nations. The UN never got back to him with a confirmation, though that didn’t deter the man. He simply assumed it was the nod he needed to lay claim to the moon. The man also had the business acumen to claim ownership of Mars, Venus, Mercury, and one of Jupiter's moons.

The 68-year-old set about dividing the moon into plots and sold them at his local bar and over the internet through his company, Lunar Embassy. Even now, 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.

It doesn’t end there, Hope even had the foresight of setting up his own state, the Galactic Government, in 2004, which has a constitution, congress, currency and even a patent office.

How does Hope decide which plot of the moon to sell?

Like a game of pin the donkey’s tail, Hope simply closes his eyes and points at a moon diagram. That portion is then coloured red and the owner is provided with an image of his or her new purchase. Hope claims he can’t go around selling his other extra-terrestrial properties because he doesn’t have a map for them.

We know what you’re thinking. We, like you, can’t believe anyone would fall for a scam like this. Except, Hope’s Lunar Embassy Corporation has generated $11 million in revenue from selling parts of the moon.

His clients aren’t your average Joes either. According to the Daily Mail: “Hollywood actors Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and Clint Eastwood, and Star Wars creator George Lucas are said to be among his six million customers. Presidents Reagan, Carter and Bush Junior have also had plots bought for them, while companies such as Hilton and Marriott have also invested.”

Unsurprisingly, Hope’s efforts have landed him in trouble. He’s been dragged to various courts and even been labelled as a con artist. None of that negative publicity has the San Francisco native miffed though. He continues to sell the moon to willing buyers.