Becoming a planet owner is a lot easier than you might think. All you have to do is take a quick glance at an astronomical map, pick out whichever planet or moon tickles your fancy, tell everyone you own it, and you're set. It's a little like telling a man in a bar that you own his freshly bought pint because you say you do, only less dangerous because there's no one to hospitalize you in outer space.
Dennis M. Hope is an American man who did just that and is now planet overlord of the moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Io (one of Jupiter's moons). Dennis happened to be broke when he started collecting planets and worked out a way to monetize his new hobby: claim legal ownership via the UN, subdivide his extra-terrestrial land and sell it off in chunks. It's probably about the best business model I've ever heard of (besides Ponzi schemes, obviously—those things are golden), which may be why Dennis has been able to use the celestial property game as his sole source of income since 1995.
My dad was gifted a nugget of moon for his birthday this year from Dennis' company, Moon Estates, which reminded me of all the times I'd heard about similar gifts and thought, This is is dumb, how can anybody own the moon? So I gave Dennis a call to help put my cynicism to bed.
The author's dad's deed to land on the moon.
VICE: Hi Dennis. How did you end up owning and selling off chunks of the moon?
Dennis M. Hope: I started in 1980 when I was going through a divorce. I was out of money and thought maybe I could make some if I owned some property, then I looked out the window, saw the moon, and thought, Hey, there's a load of property! So I went to the library, looked up the 1968 Outer Space Treaty and, sure enough, Article 2 stated: "No nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies." Meaning it was unowned land.
But how did you acquire it?
I just filed a claim of ownership for the moon, the other eight planets and their moons, and sent it to the United Nations with a note stating that my intent was to subdivide and sell the property to anybody who wanted it. I told them that if they had a legal problem with it they should please let me know.
Did they ever get back to you?
They never responded. Shame on them! I've never had a challenge to my claim of ownership by any government on this planet, period. I’ve had a lot of people telling me I don’t have the right to do this, but that’s just their opinion.
So how much land have you sold so far?
Well, this is the only job I’ve had since 1995, which is when I started doing this full-time. We’ve sold 611 million acres of land on the moon, 325 million acres on Mars and a combined 125 million acres on Venus, Io, and Mercury.
Dennis with his map of the moon. The red markings are the areas he's already sold.
Who's buying this land?
Everybody. Our youngest owner was a newborn in Germany and our oldest is 97. We have politicians from around the world who are property owners, including three former presidents of the United States—Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. They didn’t buy the properties themselves—Carter and Reagan’s aides bought theirs and a customer bought it for George W. Bush. We have customers in 193 countries on this planet and we’re better known than the International Astronomical Union.
To be honest, I didn't even know what that was until I googled it just now. So how big is a plot of land and how much does it cost? Is it relatively affordable?
The the smallest property you can purchase from us is one acre. The largest property we sell is what we call a "continent-size" piece of property at 5,332,740 acres, which costs $13,331,000. We haven’t sold any of those yet, but we’ve sold a lot of 1,800 and 2,000 acre parcels. We have 1,800 major corporations on the planet who have purchased property from us with specific intent, including the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains.
So people are buying land with the intent to actually do something with it? Or is it more of a novelty thing?
Well, if you look under the true definition of "novelty" as being "something that is unique, having the quality of being novel, a small mass-produced item," we fit exactly that. I don’t really mind people calling it a novelty. In fact, our history shows us that 17 percent of people buy the product as a novelty item. But we also know that 42 percent of people register the property in the name of a trust they've set up, meaning they take it more seriously. And, of course, we also know that the major corporations who own land have a specific intent for it.
Has anyone started planning these projects yet?
Not yet, as there’s no equitable way to get there and back yet.
A copy of the Lunar Constitution and the letter you get when you buy land on the moon.
Ah, yes. And how are you going to protect all this property?
In 2001, I had 163,000 emails from customers asking me that. The conclusion we came to was to set up a democratic republic nation called "The Galactic Government." It took us three years to write the constitution and we put it online in March 2004, when we had 3.7 million property owners and 173,562 votes for ratification. So now we’re a fully constitutionally-ratified sovereign nation. We currently have a diplomacy with 30 governments on this planet and we’re trying to get as many to recognize us as we can, because our intent is to join the international monetary fund.
Yeah. Even though we’re not located on earth, we have a currency for our government. We’re the only government that has any backing for its currency whatsoever, which are the helium-3 reserves on the surface of the moon. We have $6 quadrillion worth of helium reserves in our treasury right now.
That's insane. You're dicking on Carlos Slim. So, technically speaking, if anyone wants to land or do anything on the moon, they need your permission?
No, because in the same treaty that I claimed ownership of these properties, there's an article that states, "All nations on this planet shall have the right for exploration." So we don’t mind if any government goes up and explores. The thing we do mind is when they want to build permanent facilities on the planetary bodies, as they don’t have the legal right to because they don’t own the land.
If, in a century, there was the possibility of us building on the moon, what would happen?
In 2008, the Galactic Government patented the first ever anti-gravitic proposal system. In essence, this craft could make a trip from Earth to the moon in 30 minutes. We anticipate that all our practical situational problems will be solved in about three to five years, so we’re hoping to be on the surface of the moon by 2020, building the first city there.
The flag of the Galactic Government.
Wow. What's the city going to be like?
We think it should be a closed, four-sided pyramid, three kilometers by three kilometers at its base and 2.5 kilometers in height, with about 62 billion square feet inside of it. The first two floors will be dedicated to agriculture and livestock, and the agriculture will help with the oxygen replenishment in the building, as well as having oxygen scrubbers. It’ll be completely safe and all items will be tested prior to anyone staying. We already have staff lined up working on this for us.
And would this be a base for the company?
Well, it will hold around 70,000 people, so every government from this planet will be represented and have an office there. There will be restaurants and hospitals and theaters. All the things you’d find in any city on this planet, you’ll find in this city on the moon.
That sounds ambitious. Have you come up against much opposition since you started selling the moon?
I’ve had some negative response, sure, but the majority of responses I’ve had are very positive. In the 32 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had six people ask me for refunds. I have over 6,011,000 customers right now, so that indicates to us that most people are very satisfied with what it is that we’re doing. After all, if it weren’t for people wanting to purchase this land, I wouldn’t have a business.
You're right there, Dennis. Thanks!
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This article originally appeared on our sister site Vice.