In Brief

Lunar Real Estate Agent Has 'Sold' 7.5% of Moon

Full Moon Over Chatom, Alabama
Astrophotograher Ashlea Singleton of Chatom, Alabama, sent in a photo of the full moon taken on April 25, 2013. (Image credit: Ashlea Singleton)

The lack of a clear law on space property rights hasn't stopped one man from selling real estate on the moon — and the other solar system bodies as well.

Entrepreneur Dennis Hope of Gardnerville, Nev., has sold millions of acres of property on the moon, Mars, and other heavenly worlds through his company Lunar Embassy Corp., Good Morning America reported this week. Yet many legal experts question whether such deeds would ever hold up in court. "As far as title goes, it's a gray area," international lawyer and space-law expert Timothy Nelson, who works for the firm Skadden in New York City, told in 2011.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids countries from claiming territorial sovereignty over the moon or other celestial bodies. It doesn't, however, expressly forbid private companies from staking claims, Hope points out. Whether that argument would hold up to legal scrutiny is unclear, but the uncertainty hasn't stopped Hope from selling space land parcels since 1968. An acre on the moon goes for $19.99, while the same size plot on Mars will set you back $22.49, plus tax and shipping and handling. Hope claims to have sold 7.5 percent of the moon so far, so other lunar land grabbers might want to hurry up, before there's no more room for moon McMansions.  

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.