Dennis Hope Thinks He Owns the Moon

Dennis Hope claims to own the Moon, and he wants to sell you an acre for just $19.99 plus taxes and fees

Dennis Hope stands next to a map of the Moon, showing (in red) all the plots of land he’s sold.
Dennis Hope stands next to a map of the Moon, showing (in red) all the plots of land he’s sold. Screenshot of ‘The Man Who Sells the Moon’ by Simon Ennis

For the past 33 years, Dennis Hope has been selling the Moon, piece by piece. For the price of a nice dinner, Hope and his company—the Lunar Embassy Corporation—will offer you an acre of terra luna. Hope and his controversial (and wholly flawed) claim to own the Moon is a semi-regular topic of discussion, with National Geographic and Discover both looking into (and debunking) the business sense.

But Simon Ennis made a fun mini-documentary for The New York Times, looking at the curious man behind the plan—a ventriloquist-turned-entrepreneur with an eye on the sky.

In the documentary, Hope details his justification of his business and his plan for a interplanetary embassy based on the Moon. Ennis’ profile gives a glimpse into the life of the man who self describes as “the wealthiest individual on the planet… in theory.”

Hope’s claim to the Moon isn’t very strong, as Discover explained years ago:

Ram Jakhu, law professor at the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal, says that Hope’s claims aren’t likely to hold much weight. Nor, for that matter, would any nation’s. “I don’t see a loophole,” Jakhu says. “The moon is a common property of the international community, so individuals and states cannot own it. That’s very clear in the U.N. treaty. Individuals’ rights cannot prevail over the rights and obligations of a state.”

However, says Ennis for the Times, the business, which as of a few years ago had earned Hope millions of dollars, has an alternative justification:

Personally, I think what he’s doing is acceptable. Even if Mr. Hope’s lunar land certificates have no financial value, they do seem to provide another benefit. The moon inspires awe — its white blankness is the perfect backdrop for any kind of dream we might have. Feelings of optimism and wonder can be worth quite a lot.

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