- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Earthlings will buy anything. A few questionable products I can suggest include the Chia Pet, pet rocks and plots of lunar land.

I had not heard about the lunar plots until a few days ago, when I came across an article from Agence France-Presse, republished in 2003 at www.spacedaily.com.

It seems that American entrepreneurs have hit pay dirt with schemes to sell lunar plots for between $17 and $50 a pop — and these aren’t cookie-cutter pieces of property, either. Some measure out to about 700,000 square meters each, the equivalent of more than 170 acres.

Although the sale is actually old news, Dennis Hope, who came up with the idea, claims he’s found a loophole in the U.N. Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that he says makes his parcels legitimate.

Purchasers of the plots — including about 1,200 lunar land owners in Germany — became concerned about their claims when President Bush spoke in his state of the union address this year about returning to the moon, building a space station and launching missions to Mars from the moon.

They’ve begun a letter-writing campaign to the White House, requesting that the United States respect their “land rights,” and at least not leave space junk on their property.

Deeper research reveals that the quest for owning heavenly bodies is heating up. In 1993, for instance, three Yemeni brothers sued the U.S. government for trespassing on their property — on Mars. They claimed to be the owners because they had inherited the Red Planet 3,000 years ago from their ancestors. Did our government take it seriously? Well, it sent lawyers to Yemen to deal with the issue.

It seems laughable, but where there’s potential development, of course, lawyers are soon to follow, which brought me to a piece in the Christian Science Monitor about outer-space lawmakers.

Now, these guys are serious — so serious that students can major in accredited space law studies in college. The University of Mississippi is one of the institutions that offers a degree in space law.

The idea of space law is to prevent a free-for-all colonization of heavenly bodies along the lines of historic colonization of Earth.

The nations that could actually develop any type of intergalactic property signed the Outer Space Treaty two years before Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin planted Old Glory at Tranquillity Base on July 20, 1969.

The treaty is about to truly be tested as the International Space Station becomes operational and the idea of building improvements on the lunar surface nears reality.

Think about it — who really owns the moon, and who can tell anyone else what to do if they decide to start development? Enter the laser-toting, brief-packing space attorney.

When you consider that it’s going to take billions of dollars to traverse and develop a building lot about 240,000 miles away, I say to the victor go the spoils. Whoever can get there first and build something, go for it.

Realistically, though, while it all may seem like science fiction today, if the Outer Space Treaty prevails, it means we all could own a piece of the rock, and that’s probably how it should be.

M. Anthony Carr is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions and comments on his blog (commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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