By By Darren Garnick - 03/13/12 11:49 PM EDT
After flirting with Florida primary voters by pledging a moon colony by 2020 and announcing plans to create the first heavens-based U.S. state, Newt Gingrich was savagely mocked by his arch-nemesis — “the media elite.”
Time magazine dubbed him the “President of the Moon” and “Saturday Night Live” took it a step further by imagining him as a Dr. Evil-like character with a robot sidekick, the “Reagatron 3000.”
Whether or not Gingrich wins enough Southern votes to become a power broker at the Republican National Convention, his gung-ho advocacy for space exploration stands out in a political year dominated by unemployment, healthcare, oil prices and Iran.
Could Gingrich’s abiding passion for space exploration give an unintended boost to the economy in other ways? For starters, might his candidacy be the greatest gift to the novelty extraterrestrial real estate market?
Since 1980, Lunar Embassy CEO Dennis Hope has been selling an acre on the moon for $19.99 plus $1.51 in “Lunar Tax.” To date, he claims he has sold the property rights to more than 600 million of them. His business sells an average of 300 acres a day worldwide, with the top five markets being Japan, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Hope has plans to build on the moon — an elaborate glass-and-titanium pyramid city — by 2018, two years before the Gingrich proposal, which he calls “illegal.”
“I don’t put a lot of faith in anything Newt Gingrich says. He’s a big hypocrite, and I just don’t trust the guy,” says Hope, who is based in Gardnerville, Nev. “If he becomes president of this country, I’m moving — and I don’t care where.”
Presumably, his choices would include Mercury, Venus, Mars, Pluto and Io, the volcanic moon orbiting Jupiter — all options in the Lunar Embassy’s online shopping cart, which does not include the gaseous Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune or Uranus.
“Every government on this planet without exception believes they are more important than the people they govern and that creates dire circumstances for the average citizen,” Hope says, adding that he has formed his own “Galactic Government” with diplomatic relations established with 30 countries.
“We’re keeping those countries a secret for now because nobody wants to be the first one to recognize our sovereignty,” he says.
On its website, the Lunar Embassy brags about its “Head Cheese” (Hope) being named an honorary chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Business Advisory Council. The 2003 award certificates, signed by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), were later exposed by The Washington Post as a political fundraising gimmick.
Despite the fundraising scheme and DeLay’s subsequent money-laundering scandal and conviction, the Lunar Embassy website calls this certificate a “huge step” toward official U.S. recognition of the Galactic Government.
The Lunar Embassy also cites the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty as a legal basis for selling property on the moon and various planets. The treaty forbids governments from owning or exploiting the resources beyond Earth, but it does not mention the rights of individuals. A competing moon real estate company, the Manhattan-based Lunar Registry, makes the same claim.
“There are ambiguities you can drive a Mack truck through,” acknowledges Margaret Race, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute, which has partnered with NASA and the National Science Foundation to explore the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
“But until someone actually goes up there and claims their property,” she adds, “all they have is a very expensive piece of paper.”
Hope’s asking price for a neighborhood-sized parcel (1,778 acres) of the moon is $8,898. A “mega-sized” parcel (10,665 acres) is available for $47,995 and a county (35,552 acres) is fetching $142,206. And no worries if your bank won’t offer a mortgage — the Lunar Embassy offers a financing plan.
Hope has wisely steered clear of any immediate conflicts with the United States and Russia by not including any of the historic lunar landing sites for sale. He also says he has applied to the International Monetary Fund to recognize the delta, his currency based on helium-3, an energy-rich elemental isotope rare on Earth but plentiful on the moon.
The Head Cheese also doesn’t take kindly to comparisons to the International Star Registry, the infamous novelty company that has been selling the naming rights to every glowing orb in the universe.
“They admit that they don’t own anything,” he says. “With us, you’re getting actual property.”
Luckily for Gingrich, the Galactic Government has no actual clout — or delegates — in the 2012 campaign.
“I have no political affiliation. I vote for the person, not the party,” says Hope. “I voted for Obama and I will again.”