How I own a piece of the moon
December 15, 2000
PROPERTY law, so a property lawyer gravely told me, is quite explicit: for a title deed to have any value, the owner must have access to the land.
This means, for instance, that I can buy a plot in the Western Australian desert, and it will be mine. Access is difficult but not impossible.
But I cannot sell the title deeds for my cellar to anyone requiring a secure cool spot to keep their wine, unless I also guarantee right of passage from my gates to the wine-racks.
The buyer has to be able to reach the land, or the sale is meaningless.
This rule apparently invalidates the certificate that hangs on my wall, proclaiming my ownership of an acre on the moon.
I bought it from an online outfit called MoonEstates.com for £10 plus VAT.
I haven’t tried to reclaim the VAT from HM Customs and Excise yet — for the sake of a quiet life, I think I might let that one pass. It wasn’t the hope of securing valuable mineral rights that attracted me — I have no idea whether there is gold or oil buried in my dusty little acre. My old friend Captain Ed Mitchell, the sixth US astronaut to walk on the moon, assures me that it’s just dust and rock, all the way to the core.
It wasn’t the idea of putting a hotel up there —the views would be fantastic, since the land is on the moon’s light side, overlooking the Earth . . . but the weather can be uncomfortable sometimes, owing to the absence of an atmosphere.
Around lunchtime, it’s 100 degrees centigrade in the shade, if you can find any, but by bedtime it’s 155 degrees below.
And it wasn’t a simple urge to have another conversation-piece on the walls. I’ve got a life-size wooden effigy of Elvis next to the sofa, which is all the conversation-piece anyone could need.
Partly, I splashed out a tenner on the moon to enjoy a joke against international law. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 clearly denies any government the right to lay claim to the moon or a planet or star. But it forgot to make the same rule apply to individuals.
Californian Dennis M Hope spotted this loophole 20 years ago. Setting up his own Lunar Embassy and styling himself The Big Cheese, Hope filed a ‘declaration of ownership’ with the UN, the White House and the Kremlin.
Since then he has made a good living, selling slivers of his empire — he now owns three aeroplanes.
None of Hope’s planes will get him — or me — to my plot on the moon.
But I defy anyone to say that access is impossible. Ed Mitchell’s been there, after all.
Extraterrestrial tourism is expected to blast off within a decade, and it has long been my ambition to look down on our planet from space.
I love the sheer cheek of this enterprise.
Francis Williams, a Cornishman who proclaims himself Lunar Ambassador to the UK, secured the rights from Big Cheese Hope to market the moon.
He’s sending up all the pompous astronomers who secretly think that they own space because they are the only people who can explain exactly how planets stay in orbit or why eclipses occur.
A consultant to the Royal Astronomical Society, Jacqueline Mitton, spluttered: ‘‘Nobody takes a blind bit of notice of any certificates issued of ownership of moon or anywhere else in outer space.’’
I wonder if she realises that nobody takes a blind bit of notice of the RAS either. The man in the moon has always enjoyed a joke at big sister Earth. He shines strange magic upon people who try to keep their feet on the ground.
Though most physicists would prefer to ignore it, data from a Las Vegas casino shows unequivocally that the phases of the moon are a significant factor in gamblers’ luck — when the moon is full or new, takings at the tables fall by around two per cent.
Parascientist Dean Radin proposes in his book The Conscious Universe that the efficiency of human intuition improves by a measurable percentage at these key phases.
Jewish wisdom regards the New Moon as sacred. Rosh Chodesh marks the beginning of the Hebrew month, a tradition which may have developed from pagan moon festivals.
Rosh Chodesh was granted by God to women, for refusing to aid their menfolk in building the Golden Calf at Mt Sinai.
The cycle of the moon, of course, is mirrored by the menstrual cycle.
The Qiddush Levanah, a joyous blessing recited during the moon’s waxing, has undertones of hope for the coming of the Messiah. With every moon that is born, so is hope for mankind.
This prayer is often printed in large type, so it can be easily read by moonlight. Pesach and Succot begin at the full moon. A waxing moon is auspicious for marriages, and Jewish women who are trying to conceive will still sometimes wear a crescent pendant.
All the while I have been writing this, a Jewish songwriter’s beautiful ballad —Paul Simon’s Song About The Moon — has been echoing in my mind.
I took a few minutes just now to find the CD and play the track, and I heard Simon sing: ‘‘If you want to write a song about the heart, and its ever-longing for a counterpart; If you want to write a spiritual tune, Write a song about the moon.’’
I’m glad I own a piece of that.
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