Here's the bizarre story of the man who 'sold the moon'
Back in the halcyon days of the 1980s, when all people of the world had to worry about was total annihilation via widespread nuclear war, an American called Dennis Hope made international news when he revealed that after exploiting a loophole in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, he had become the sole owner of our nearest celestial neighbour, the Moon. Since then, Hope has made a small fortune selling off pieces of the satellite's surface. While the media has mostly painted Hope as a harmless eccentric, if you study his story a little more closely, as we're wont to do, you'll see that Hope is actually a masterful entrepreneur and almost every aspect of his story is a carefully crafted falsehood or half truth that nonetheless has seen the man himself seemingly earn millions selling nothing more than pieces of paper.
So how did he pull this off? The story goes that, in 1980, Mr Hope was a down on his luck unemployed shoe salesmen, reeling from a divorce and looking for a way to make ends meet. After learning that there was a great deal of money to be made buying and selling property, he states, "I looked out the window, saw the moon and thought, 'Hey, there's a load of property!'"
The Moon as seen by an observer from Earth.
Hope ran to his local library (for those unfamiliar, a sort of place where they used to store the partial contents of the future internet on the bodies of deceased trees) to research who, if anyone, owned the Earth's satellite. In that house of plant death, he discovered that, according to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty signed by all space faring nations at the time as well as over 100 others, no country can claim sovereignty over any such celestial body.
Hope's interpretation of this was that, while the Treaty forbade countries and governments from staking a claim to the Moon, it said nothing about an individual doing so. Towards this end, he filed a claim for ownership of the moon with, to quote him, "his local US Governmental Office for claim registries". Supposedly after some pushing and prodding, a supervisor at the office signed off on his claim which made him the sole owner of the moon.
As a courtesy, Hope then wrote a letter to the UN and the Russian Government telling them about the claim he was granted by the U.S. government and asking if they wished to challenge it. When they never responded, he began selling off plots of lunar real estate for about $20 an acre (he now charges $24.99), or slightly more if you also wished to purchase the mineral rights for your particular lunar plot.
Since then, Hope has claimed to have sold "611 million acres of land on the moon, 325 million acres on Mars and a combined 125 million acres on Venus, Io (one of Jupiter's moons) and Mercury" to approximately 6 million property owners including, according to him, celebrities like Tom Hanks, George Lucas and even former Presidents Carter, Bush Jr and Reagan. He also claims the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains have bought extensive properties from him, along with, to quote him, "1,800 major corporations".
Beyond selling property on the various celestial bodies, he also claims to be the defacto ruler of the "Galactic Government", which he also states currently has "diplomacy with 30 governments on this planet." We can only assume by "diplomacy", he at some point sent an email off that some clerk actually replied to.
Whatever the case, as for the United States, Hope states on his Lunar Embassy website that "We at the Lunar Embassy are pleased that our work since November of 1980, is finally starting to be recognized by the United States of America government as being valid. This is a huge step in the official recognition by the USA…"
As to what this "huge step in the official recognition" of his claim of ownership of the Moon and other such celestial objects was, beyond we're sure the IRS happy to collect taxes from him, the preceding paragraph on the website indicates that this acknowledgement came in the form of Hope being, to quote, "named co-chairman of the Republican Congressional Business Advisory Council. He has also been given the National Republican Leadership Award and most recently he has been issued the highest honor the National Republican Congressional Committee has, the prestigious Republican Gold Medal."
We'll leave it to you to decide how this is "a huge step in the official recognition by the USA" of anything more than Hope's business acumen.
Moving swiftly on, his Galactic Government is technically the richest in this solar system, as he states, "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."
This all brings us around to how much, if any, of Hope's story is actually true and whether or not he has any genuine legal claim to the Moon.
To begin with, it's often reported as fact that Hope discovered a loophole in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that allowed him as an individual to claim ownership over the Moon. However, if you actually read the treaty (it's kind of what we do here), you'll find that it very clearly states in Article VI:
The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty
As Hope has never received authorization by any State Party to the Treaty for any activities on the Moon, including ownership, it's generally agreed by space lawyers that Hope is full of "space-dung" and that the "deeds" he sells are nothing more than a novelty item.
(And if you think we're making up the whole "space lawyers" bit, this is actually yet another thing your high school guidance councilor failed to mention to you, despite that the International Institute of Space Law was formed all the way back in 1960 and currently has members in nearly 50 countries.)
Going back to Hope, at this point you might be thinking, "But didn't Hope get just such an authorization by a 'State Party' when the 'US Governmental Office for claim registries' approved his claim?" Well, a further point of contention on his origin story is that there is no such government office of the United States federal government he could have gone to that deals with registering individual claims to property like this; and further no local state office has the power to officially grant someone the rights to land outside of their jurisdiction either, which the Moon and various planets definitely are.
This hasn't stopped Hope claiming that a representative of such an office accepted his claim for some reason. Unfortunately, the official documentation of the processing of his claim was supposedly misplaced and for whatever reason, he can't seem to get an official copy of it from any government office. Instead, he can only provide a copy he made of it. This is a copy, mind you, that is filled with numerous spelling and grammatical errors and that apparently refers to Hope as "THE HEAD CHEESE"…
In any event, it should also be noted that the Lunar Deeds Hope sells contain a disclaimer clearly and prominently identifying it as a "novelty" gift.
Nonetheless, Hope himself vehemently insists that the deeds are real. Explaining on his website that the term "novelty" is only used to discourage frivolous lawsuits. He also hilariously points out that "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."
He doubles down on the authenticity here by noting the inclusion of "novelty"
Does not diminish the value of the property that you purchase in any way, as every deed is recorded and registered in the Lunar Embassy's registration database and every owners information is listed with that registration. You own this property.
He further states 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."
We'll spare you more such claims, but suffice it to say, if you look over his company's website, they are pretty adamant that what they are selling is actually rights to property on the moon, and helpfully even have a whole section of one of their web pages dedicated to helping people spot fraud… because if one thing is clear above all others — Hope definitely has a great, dead-pan sense of humor.
All that aside, despite Hope's aforementioned claims that only 17% of buyers think it's a novelty item, we feel pretty confident that most people buying these "deeds" know full well it's all just a fun gag gift, which brings us to the big question — has Hope actually achieved the "American dream", earning "a million dollars" off his little business venture?
Well, as noted, Hope claims he's sold "611 million acres of land on the moon, 325 million acres on Mars and a combined 125 million acres on Venus, Io (one of Jupiter's moons) and Mercury." Given the prices he's selling such at ($20 and up per acre) and that the total here is over a billion acres sold, this means Hope is officially one of the richest people in the world, even if we assume he offers steep discounts for bulk buys, which for what it's worth, on his website he currently does not seem to offer.
Speaking of his obscene wealth, Hope claims that in 2011 an organization approached him and offered to buy the entire north pole of the Moon for a whopping $50 million, but he turned their offer down. His reason? "We want to make sure people have what is needed for living at an inexpensive price."
We're going to be honest here, we're not entirely sure what he was trying to say there…
Whatever the case, Hope notes that his current net worth is well over $100 trillion dollars in land alone, owing to his ownership of over 7 trillion acres of extraterrestrial properties.
Beyond the land, Hope, of course claims to own exclusive mineral rights to, by his estimate, $6 quadrillion dollars of Helium 3 on the Moon alone. This isn't mentioning the countless deposits of minerals and resources on the other celestial bodies he claims to own, such as the rich methane deposits hidden deep inside Uranus…
(Full disclosure here, the co-author of this article chose this topic solely so he could make that Uranus joke he had thought up… more on the whole methane/Uranus thing in the Bonus Facts later…)
But going back to Hope, we're just saying, the IRS might want to look into his taxes to make sure he's properly paying on everything, as we're pretty sure we've just figured out how to solve the United States' national debt problem.
All joking aside, how much has Hope actually made from all this?
Well, really, only the IRS and Hope knows.
But given the fact that Hope seemingly has had no other job since 1995, we're guessing he's at least done reasonably well, and certainly given it would take only about $26,000 a year average to crest the $1 million mark in the near four decades he's been doing this, he has easily eclipsed the classic American Dream trope of making "a million dollars" off little more than an idea and a bit of elbow grease — or, in his case, some high quality paper, printer ink, and sufficient postage.
- Hope was not the first to claim to own the Moon, nor the last. There is one man, however, who has the strongest claim of all — computer game designer Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux. Why? He is the only individual to legally own something that is currently on the Moon. In 1993, he purchased the Lunokhod 2 and the Luna 21 lander for $68,500 at an auction. As he notes, "I purchased Lunakod… from the Russians. I am now the world's only private owner of an object on a foreign celestial body. Though there are international treaties that say, no government shall lay claim to geography off planet earth, I am not a government. Summarily, I claim the moon in the name of Lord British!" Funny enough, beyond also being the son of an astronaut, he's also the only person who claims to own the Moon to have actually been to space. He did so via paying $30 million to visit the International Space Station in October of 2008, spending 12 days there. As another fun fact about Garriott, he is generally credited as being the one to coin the term "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" (MMORPG).
- Going back to the Methane in Uranus, it turns out that, contrary to popular belief, methane in any measurable amount in most people's flatus is not terribly common, with only about 1/3 of humans having measurably significant amounts in their farts. Even then, in one small study (looking at only ten people's farts and experimenting around a bit with their diets during the study), it was found that those that did have measurable amounts of methane only produced it when fed significant amounts of fiber. (The fiber free version of their farts was almost wholly made up of nitrogen for all ten subjects.) With the fiber version, the average fart only contained about 3.6% methane. The bulk of these individuals' flatus was made up of hydrogen (51%) and nitrogen (30%).Why only some people produce methane in their flatus isn't entirely clear, though at least in part has to do with what microbes call one's intestines home. So far, only three microbes have been identified as methane producers (methanogens) in humans: Methaniobrevibacter smithii, Methanospaera stadmagnae and Methannobrevibacter oralis.Scientists have identified a few factors in predicting if a person is a methane producer, and one of the most important of these appears to be where you live (although it's not clear if genetics plays a role as well in some way). For example, while 77% of Nigerians and 87% of South Africans produce methane, only 34% of Norwegians and 35% of those who live in and around Minneapolis do so. In addition, adult women are more likely to produce measurable amounts of methane in their farts, and young children are less so. Finally, if both your parents produce methane, then there is a greater likelihood that you will, too, with one study indicating as high as a 95% chance that the spawn of two methane producers will also produce methane in their farts.More than just inconvenient, recent studies have shown a correlation between methane production and several gastrointestinal diseases including diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowls syndrome, constipation and colon cancer. Although there's no definitive answer why to date.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
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