Buy Planet Mars!

The other day I was looking through my email offers from Groupon (an online site that offers discounted goods and services), and was caught by the headline offer: Buy Planet Mars!

Wow, I thought to myself, I’d really love to own Planet Mars! I mean, what better investment for a woman who loves astronomy than to buy Planet Mars? I didn’t even realize it was for sale! Probably out of my price range, but still – owning Planet Mars!! I had to click the link.

Needless to say, when I got to the sale page I was rather disappointed to discover that it wasn’t the whole PLANET for sale, I could only buy one-acre parcels of Planet Mars. Darn. But on the other hand, the land was pretty cheap, only $15 an acre (original value $35). I’d get a deed, a map with the location of my land, and a special Planet Mars Info eBook.  Such a deal! I mean seriously, land for $15 an acre? You can’t even buy land in undeveloped-no-where-New-Mexico for that price.

So what are talking here, just how many acres on Planet Mars? My Google search returned a figure of about 35.5 billion acres. 35.5 billion times $15…..WT…didn’t even need to break out my calculator to know we’re talking in the ballpark of $52 billion. Dang, I don’t have it. Bill Gates could buy Planet Mars and only be down less than half of his purported net worth of $110 billion. Gates has given just about a Planet Mars’ worth of money to charity since 1994 (so much better for those of us here on Earth that he has supported important causes here rather than invest in Planet Mars.)

I figure Elon Musk could also by Planet Mars, although it would put him back a lot more than Gates. Musk’s estimated value is more on the order of $66 billion; buying Planet Mars would definitely put a crimp in his lifestyle.

Then I read the fine print on the offer – only one acre per person. It was at this point that I really had to give up my dream of buying Planet Mars through Groupon. Sigh.

But of course, I knew I never could have bought Planet Mars, even if I did have tens of billions of dollars of expendable income. In 1967 the USA, UK, and then Soviet Union created a treaty covering the use and exploitation of outer space, the Moon, and other celestial bodies, signed by more than 100 nations. Bottom line of this treaty is, nobody can claim ownership of the space around us or of any celestial bodies, including Planet Mars. Even with the 2015 modification of the treaty in the SPACEAct of 2015 that allows the ownership of materials extracted from celestial bodies, you can’t own the celestial body itself. Phew! So I didn’t miss out on an incredible (and non-affordable for me) deal!

Turns out owning Planet Mars is nothing more than a novelty item, no different from the hoaxers who sell land on the Moon and Uranus. That’s right, someone out there sells acres of land on an icy, gassy planet that doesn’t even have a solid surface. But ya know, if buying these things as novelty gifts turns your crank, I say go for it! Then talk to me, I’m thinking of starting a business selling cubic kilometers of pretty pink hydrogen gas in the Orion Nebula…

M. Colleen Gino, MRO Assistant Director of Outreach and Communications