Elon Musk has long dreamed of taking people to Mars and leaving them there (he says he’ll build a habitat) and has hinted on and off about these plans for years. A recent Tweet from Musk, in passing, referred again to his Mars plan, setting off yet another flurry of people interested in the Red Planet. Can we, or can’t we? When should we pack our bags for otherworldly habitation?
According to the man himself, SpaceX should be capable of taking a crew to Mars in 2026. And that’s the first step, isn’t it? Although NASA’s plans for Mars are less solid, the space agency has been increasingly looking for outside partners to help speed up the development of space tech. So, innovations by these private firms could easily change timelines in unpredictable ways, opening up opportunities for all sorts of people, including real estate investors.
Who owns space right now?
It’s not enough to simply wish a thing to be so. We have to have the paperwork to prove we own our own little Martian cabanas; otherwise, it’s just chaos. So, does Elon own Mars…or what’s the deal there?
A company called Lunar Embassy claims to be the legitimate owner of everything in the solar system. In the early 1980s, Dennis Hope filed a claim for ownership of all the moons and planets (besides Earth) in our solar system. Invoking the 1967 International Space Treaty and the Homestead Act of 1862, he convinced the recorder’s office in San Francisco to formally record his claim.
He wrote several formal letters to the United Nations, with no response, explaining his intent to subdivide and sell these pieces of real estate. In 2004, he formed a government body of sorts, called the Galactic Government, and ratified all the documents necessary through the United States Government to provide the Galactic Government with a formal constitution, a Congress, currency, and a patent office.
The Lunar Embassy has been selling pieces of the Moon and other heavenly bodies for close to 40 years now, with NASA and the UN’s knowledge, and over six million people have bought claims in space. Until recently, this ownership conundrum hasn’t really been a problem since no one was going to planets or moons anyway.
But with the new commercial incentives to go to space, well, we’re going to need to figure this out quickly because NASA absolutely has plans to build habitable bases on the Moon and Mars. Although plans for Mars are less solid, building basic habitats on the Moon could happen as soon as 2030, according to NASA’s own assessment.
Space real estate for the bold and savvy investor
Let me first say that there are zero guarantees that you’ll actually be able to access your space real estate in your lifetime, so realize that investing in space is a very long game. If you want to take a chance and buy some real estate from Lunar Embassy, well, you can go and register the random parcels you think might hit at any time, assuming their ownership stake holds as people actually make it to Mars and the Moon.
I personally don’t believe their stakeholders will end up having legitimate claims because of the very method they used to claim all this land. The Homestead Act of 1862 required that an owner claiming a homestead actually use the land within five years. Also, it was repealed in 1976.
Now, on the other hand, if Elon Musk takes humanity to Mars, he or someone in his organization will find a way to make a bunch of money off of it. Condos within a Martian habitat feel like something that would be his style and easy to deed to a prospective buyer. There’s literally no one there on the planet to contest the property claim.
If you’re interested in buying space real estate, simply wait for one of the dozen or so companies heading out to commercialize space to get their Moon or Martian developments planned, and then buy in as soon as an offering appears. Another option would be to invest in the companies going to space, a few of which are publicly traded.
Should you buy real estate in space?
That’s the real question. For a variety of reasons, I firmly believe that an investment in space is a far more solid investment than one in the metaverse.
First, space is cool. There’s no one contesting that.
Second, space is full of natural resources, like gold and other useful and rare metals and minerals.
Third, a lot of commercial operations are eyeing space pretty hard right now, and their next logical step from a floating space business park is a business park secured to a surface. After all, you must have somewhere from which to direct all the mining and whatnot that will be happening.
Space real estate is definitely going to be more office and industrial than residential, at least for now, but both property types have long, solid track records here on Earth. We tend to export what we understand, and a way of making money has to go before a substantial population can appear.
I don’t know whether we’ll be living on other planets, but I do know that NASA is partnering with lots of capitalists right now. That’s often a springboard to innovation due to the sheer amount of capital that suddenly gets freed up for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in these kinds of situations, as well as the spark of real estate booms as heavy industrial activity is initiated.