Saturday, October 11, 2003

For sale: 2 bed, 1 1/2 crater moon plot, hardwoods throughout

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I’m going to go out on a limb here: I don’t like junk mail. Don’t like it, I say! It’s no use trying to change my mind! But I received a junk e-mail the other day that I was actually glad to have received. It opened my eyes to the wondrous world of extraterrestrial real estate sales.

The subject line of the e-mail in question caught my eye: “1 Acre of Land on the Moon $29.99.”

Just for contrast, and for those unfamiliar with real estate prices, an acre of Earth land can often cost twice as much — sometimes more.

The message noted that sales of moon land have been going strong for 22 years. Two former presidents own property on the moon, “as do several hundred celebrities.”

I usually delete junk mail as soon as I can. I don’t want to buy any spy equipment. I don’t want free vacations anywhere. I can see nude pictures of Britney Spears any time I care to, for free, by shutting my eyes and concentrating for a few glorious moments.

Offers for cheap lunar property, on the other hand, don’t come along every day. And even though I just moved to a new apartment and it’s such a drag packing everything together again, my wife and I are still keeping our options open, provided the planet is in a good neighborhood with decent public schools. So I did some research.

Attempts to contact local real estate agents regarding moon land sales were not successful.

Classified advertisements in this and other newspapers were woefully inadequate, containing only listings within a fraction of a light-year-radius of Fall River.

However! The Internet turns out to be the place for people looking to homestead in outer space. There are several Web sites devoted to astro-realty.

One of them, MoonEstates.com, was a wealth of information. They’re an “authorized reseller” of moon property through the Lunar Embassy — which, as it turns out, is in Rio Vista, Calif.

Yes. California.

Heh-heh-heh...

Like I was saying, Earth’s self-appointed lunar ambassador is a gentleman named Dennis M. Hope. In the Earth Year 1980, Mr. Hope filed a declaration with the United States, the United Nations and the USSR, claiming ownership of every planetary body in the solar system, except Earth and the Sun. He claims to have found a legal loophole in several international treaties regarding other planets. See, the international community has essentially decided that no government can claim ownership of other planets — but it says nothing about regular people. So, as I understand it, Mr. Hope drew up some paperwork telling various world governments that he now owns those celestial bodies.

What the United States, the United Nations and the USSR had to say about this, we can only imagine.

True: Mr. Hope also calls himself The Head Cheese.

He’s got a lot of real estate for sale. Not only can you buy a plot on the moon, but he’s selling off land on Mars and Venus, too, for the same scandalously low price. Operators are standing by!

For $29.99, you get a deed, a “constitution” (it doesn’t say which), a property map, mineral rights to your new land, and a copy of Head Cheese Hope’s original declaration of ownership.

Every sale comes with a “30-day money-back guarantee.” If during that time you find your neighbors are hostile, or the land has inadequate driveway space, or you get a better deal in a less tony suburb just outside the galaxy, the Head Cheese will refund your money.

Like in the Old West, an outer space homesteader must be a hardy survivor type. “Apart from the laws of the Head Cheese, currently no law exists” in outer space, according to the Web site. The “laws of the Head Cheese” are not explained, but I’ll guess that at least one of them involves keeping off the grass.

I know what you’re thinking. What if astronauts land on your property? Can you put up signs to discourage them? “No Soliciting,” perhaps, or “Beware of the Dog”?

Sadly, no — NASA has the right to explore any planet it chooses. “But,” the Web site adds, “if someone chooses to build a house, or drill for minerals or water on your property, that’s a different matter altogether.”

Before you load up the station wagon to do a few interplanetary drive-bys of the neighborhood, you should know a few things about these properties.

The moon has no air, for instance — inadequate ventilation, a real estate agent might say. It also has lousy access to major highways and shopping centers.

The average surface temperature of Mars ranges from a summery 80 degrees to a brisk –100 degrees each day. Violent windstorms frequently engulf the entire planet. And one Martian year takes 687 Earth days, which is a long time between Christmases.

Venus is a bit more tropical, with an average temperature of 890 degrees. The Venusian atmosphere is primarily carbon dioxide, which is good news for gardeners. But the planet is swathed in a thick cloud of concentrated sulfuric acid vapor that constantly rains, making the natives rather touchy. In Realtor’s parlance, Venus is a fixer-upper.

It would be a trek from my interplanetary apartment to Fall River for work. Still, if I don’t take advantage of these low mortgage rates, I’d be a lunatic.

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