How do we decide who owns what? You probably own the shoes on your feet right now. You probably also own the computer or device you’re listening to this lesson with too. It’s not likely anyone would argue the fact that you own those things either. What about things that aren’t as easy to own though? Or things that are much farther away, like the moon?
The concept of anyone owning the moon seems pretty silly. The concept of any single person owning the moon seems even sillier. Even if you could imagine owning the moon, you might think it would be a whole country who owned the moon. Not just any country either, but the country who had gone to the moon the most often.
The reality is much different though. In fact, there is a man who claims to be the sole owner of the moon. Dennis M. Hope has owned the moon since the year 1980. What makes Dennis the owner of the moon? Because he says he owns the moon, and no one can prove that he doesn’t.
It sounds crazy, but the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty says that no country can own the moon. Good thing for Dennis, the treaty doesn’t say anything about individuals owning the moon. Dennis sent multiple letters to the United Nations saying that he owned the moon and asked for a reason why he couldn’t claim ownership of the moon. When the United Nations didn’t respond, Dennis took that as a sign that the moon was his property. Owning the moon has been Dennis’ only source of income since 1995.
For over 15 years now, Dennis has been selling plots of land on the moon for bargain prices. About $35, which includes the lunar tax gets you a whole acre of land on the moon. Dennis has even sold plots of the moon as large as some countries for $250,000.
While the early bird often gets the worm, in this case Dennis’s claims to the moon will most likely become meaningless. China recently sent a robot to the moon with the main goal of digging a hole to explore for valuable minerals. Scientists think the moon could be rich in valuable minerals such as titanium, uranium and also helium 3. Helium 3 is a gas that costs 10 million US dollars per kilogram. It’s not just governments, but also private companies who are planning to mine the natural resources of the moon.
As more and more companies and governments make progress towards settling and mining the moon, what will happen to Dennis and all his customers? Will their ownership rights be valid? Or will it all turn out to be a big disappointment to everyone but Dennis, who got rich from someone else’s moon? Only time will tell.