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Prime lunar real estate for sale -- but hurry


In this story:

'Head cheese' finds loophole

Satisfaction guaranteed

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



(CNN) -- Want to buy a piece of land that promises lots of quiet and great views of the stars? There's a sale going on that's out of this world. But hurry, the price will soon rise astronomically.

Hollywood celebrities, ex-U.S. presidents, "Star Trek" actors and NASA employees have joined in the rush to call a piece of the moon their own.

The brainchild behind the lunar real estate development is Dennis Hope, a U.S. entrepreneur who asserts he secured legal ownership of the moon and most other bodies in the solar system.

Hope's celestial ambitions began 20 years ago when he registered with the U.S. government a claim to the surface of Earth's moon and the eight other planets and their satellites. The Californian also sent notice of his claim the Russian government and the United Nations.

'Head cheese' finds loophole

"They had several years to contest such a claim. They never did," said Hope, who runs the embassy along with six employees from an office in Rio Vista, California.

Hope, self-anointed "Head Cheese" of the Lunar Embassy, thinks a loophole in the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty makes his property assertion legitimate. The agreement forbids governments from owning extraterrestrial property, but fails to mention corporations or individuals.

Others reject the claim. Martin Juergens of Germany has said his ownership of the moon dates back to Frederick the Great. The German monarch bestowed the spherical body on his ancestor in the 18th century, according to Juergens.

"(Juergens) said his family was given the moon, but he has no paperwork to prove that case," said Hope of his Old World rival. "He sent me a long letter in German, which roughly translated said I should cease and desist and send him all the money I had made."

Experts in space law dismiss Hope's celestial property ambitions as well.

"It's either a hollow claim or a fraud," said Frans Von Der Dunk, co-director of the International Institute for Air and Space Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

The 1967 outer space treaty said space "was to remain just like the high seas, free for use by all," he said.

According to Von Der Dunk, the treaty, by forbidding nations from appropriating territory in space, essentially prevents individuals from doing the same.

"As soon as you go into private properties rights, you end up in national rule. The rights of private ownership depend on one national jurisdiction or another," he said.

Von Der Dunk reasons that without a national system in space, there is no way for a citizen to authenticate a claim.

Nonetheless, other speculators have laid claim to the moon as well. One in Texas that peddles moon plots suggests buyers book a ride into orbit aboard the space shuttle and hitchhike the remainder of the way to the moon.

"Even if you don't want to own your own piece of Lunar real estate, there must be someone that you would like to see go live on another planet," reads the Web site of www.texusa.com.

The Lunar Embassy Web site cautions against such "highly irresponsible" pretenders:

"You have been luckier. You have found us first. You will not get a fake Rolex for twice the price. You will get the real thing, at the correct lower price."

The properties are legally considered "novelty gifts," but Hope maintains with a straight face that his real estate sales are legitimate. Using the novelty term "can help avoid any frivolous lawsuits from a foreign country," according to Hope.

Satisfaction guaranteed

Real or not, customers don't seem to mind. More than 300,000 people have purchased properties from Lunar Embassy.

In addition to their lunar plot, buyers receive a deed, a site map, a copy of the lunar constitution bill of rights and a copy of Hope's declaration of ownership filed with the U.S. government. There's also a 30-day money back guarantee.

New buyers should hurry. The cost of a property roughly the size of Manhattan, almost 18,000 acres, is currently about $27, including the lunar tax. But after December 26, Hope will sell only 1-acre plots, for the same amount of money.

Besides the Lunar Embassy in the United States, prospective customers can contact authorized ambassadors and agents in a growing number of countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

Reaching for more than the moon? Hope sells or plans to sell properties on most all the planets and their moons, with one exception, a moon orbiting Jupiter thought to possess a vast salty ocean.

"Europa will not be for sale. We're going to create the whole thing as a celestial reserve."




RELATED STORIES:
Former U.S. rocket scientist slated to become Mir tourist
June 16, 2000
Space adventurers keep eyes on X-Prize
June 9, 2000
Space: The final frontier for tourism?
September 26, 1999
NASA considers turning over space station to private enterprise
September 25, 1999

RELATED SITES:
The United Nations
Lunar Embassy
NASA Shuttle-Mir Web: Outer Space Treaty
International Institute of Air and Space Law


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