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FAQ #7: Could Lunar land really be worth enough money to make a difference?

It isn't how much land you get that matters. It is how many dollars it is worth!

The surface of a sphere is four times pi times the square of its radius. The Moon's mean radius is 1080 miles so its surface area is 14,657,415 square miles. One acre = .001562 square miles, so the lunar surface has approximately 9,383,748,198 acres. (Mars, by the way, has almost 35 and a half billion acres.)

So how much could those 9.38 billion Lunar acres be worth in dollars? First, let's figure the absolute minimum, worst case dollar value. It seems a more than reasonable floor to assume that REAL Lunar deeds would - at the very least - be worth no less than the proven market price of phony ones.

Since 1980 a man by the name of Dennis Hope has made a small fortune selling Lunar "deeds". He simply announced that he had claimed the Moon, set up his own "Lunar Embassy", and has sold unrecognized Lunar land "deeds" for $15.99 an acre ($18.49 if you want your name printed on the deed). Many people buy these "deeds" even though there is no way to get there, and nothing can be done with them. Dennis Hope has sold over 1.1 million of these "properties" to people in 165 countries, according to Greg Nemitz, Hope's former "National Marketing Director" (and, not surprisingly, the most determined opponent of requiring "use and occupancy" before claiming Lunar land.)

So Hope has proven beyond doubt - by selling so very many of these "deeds" all over the world at $15.99 per acre, - that real deeds, recognized by the US and actually accessible by a then-existing commercial space line - would certainly be worth no less than $15.99/acre.

15.99 times 9,383,748,198 acres = $150,046,133,679. That is over $150 billion dollars - absolute minimum worst -case value.

Of course, US government recognized land would be worth many times more per acre. For example, at $260 per acre it would be $2.4 trillion. At $500 per acre it would be $4.7 trillion. Even at only $100 it would be $938,374,819,756.00, almost a trillion dollars.

A trillion dollars would likely be much more than the necessary incentive, so the Institute proposes recognizing claims of no more than 4% of that - 600,000 square miles - but if need be, the size of the recognition could be increased up to whatever it took - up to that limit of $938 Billion dollars. Do you think a chance to win a "prize" worth almost a Trillion Dollars would be enough to interest Boeing or Lockheed? Further, much can be done to increase the value of that land over time.

First, the dollar value of an acre of lunar land goes up exponentially the day buyers can actually buy a ticket and go there, or send a representative or a customer. That means the value of the land goes up exponentially if we hold it back until there is a space line going back and forth.

The value of the land claim can be similarly increased if we capitalize on the media coverage of a space ship taking off to try to win the race to establish the first human settlement on the Moon. The day people land on the Moon, set up permanent habitation, and stay there while the ship goes back for more people, they will be the whole world's heroes -- on every TV screen and front page on Earth! Trips to and from the moon will be terribly expensive at first. But deeds to small parcels within the vast area around a settlement will be much more affordable. People around the globe will have a chance to buy those deeds as a way to support the project, or just feel part of the excitement.

Then, and only then, will a lunar land claim reach the multi-billion dollar value that would make a real difference, enough to justify even the billions it took to win it.

Strip of lunar land
image credit: NASA

Questions & Answers about Lunar Land Claims Recognition

Note: The first 25 FAQs below are reprinted from the Space Settlement Initiative website.

  1. What is the real purpose of enacting a Lunar land claims recognition law?

  2. Will promising property rights be enough to produce the necessary investment in developing affordable space transport?

  3. What does international law say about private property ownership in space?

  4. Can there be property ownership without national sovereignty?

  5. What if other nations refuse to recognize land claims in space?

  6. Why not allow smaller, limited land claims for easier steps than settlement?

  7. Could lunar land really be worth enough money to make a difference?

  8. What conditions should the US set for recognition of a claim?

  9. How much land should a settlement be able to claim... and why?

  10. Why must the Earth-Moon space line and settlement be open to all paying passengers regardless of nationality?

  11. Wouldn't it help if a major company announced that, if a land claims recognition law were passed, it would try to develop affordable space transport?

  12. Are the weaknesses and compromises in this plan likely to be permanent?

  13. Didn't the earliest version of this plan talk about Lunar "land grants"? Why aren't you using that phrase any more?

  14. Did land grants work in the past, on Earth?

  15. You can't farm Lunar land, and Earth doesn't need the Moon's minerals. So how could Lunar land be put to profitable use?

  16. If you can't give figures, now, proving the profitability of the end uses of Lunar land, how could anyone raise big money for Lunar land?

  17. Could other sources of revenue be enough without land claims recognition?

  18. What if the Lunar settlement does not produce enough operating revenue to pay off its debts and make a profit?

  19. Could this law produce a new "space race"?

  20. Why is U.S. legislation, in particular, so important?

  21. Could the U.S. withdraw from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, claim national sovereignty on the Moon, then award property rights to whomever it pleased?

  22. What about defense? Does recognizing a land claim obligate the U.S. military to defend the Lunar settlement?

  23. What effect would this have on NASA and the aerospace companies?

  24. What do the experts say about this idea?

  25. Who came up with this idea?

More FAQs

The FAQs above cover basic questions about Lunar Land Claims Recognition. The following questions address more advanced issues.

  1. If we really went to the Moon in 1969, why aren't we there now?

  2. What were the assumptions before the Outer Space Treaty, (e.g. Robert Heinlein)?

  3. Should Lunar government be modeled after Antarctica?

  4. Could the UN just give every nation a portion of the Moon to own, thereby creating valuable Lunar property rights?

  5. Why don't space activists convince the public to support a government program to establish a base on the Moon and Mars?

  6. Will changing how NASA works bring the taxpayers back on board?

  7. What would Land Claims Recognition cost the US Government?

  8. What will this legislation do for general economic growth?

  9. Who would issue and record Lunar land deeds?

  10. Why are Lunar land sales necessary?

  11. Could this law force the US to recognize a foreign government's Lunar land claim?

  12. Shouldn't we wait to put such a law into effect until free societies are ready to settle the Moon, to keep it from encouraging the Chinese?

  13. Would Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty prohibit Lunar land claims recognition?


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Every revolutionary idea passes three stages:
  1. It's impossible.
  2. It's possible but not worth doing.
  3. I said it was a good idea all along.
- Arthur C. Clarke
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