(photo credit: )
Israelis own 10 percent of the privately owned area on the moon, according to Tom Wegner, a spokesman for Crazyshop, a company that sells plots of moon land to private individuals in Israel.
About 10,000 Israelis have purchased moon property since it became available in 2000. Of the 10 million acres sold worldwide, 1 million are owned by residents of Israel, Wegner said Wednesday.
"Some Israelis believe that buying land on the moon is an original gift and a great investment that their grandchildren might benefit from," he told The Jerusalem Post.
Israeli moon property sales rose dramatically last month following NASA's announcement on December 5 that it would establish an "international base camp" on one of the moon's poles, landing astronauts in 2020 - and setting up a permanent colony four years later.
Although the sales also increased in the United States, nowhere in the world were they as high as in Israel. While about 9,000 Israelis purchased plots from 2000 until December's announcement, a full 1,000 did so over the last month, Wegman said. "This trend will continue to increase in Israel; it is a snowball effect," he said.
Israelis make their purchases through a Web site run by Crazyshop, which also offers other "out of this world" products such as the opportunity to name a star after a loved one. The company, which claims to be the exclusive place to buy moon property, is a franchise owned by American Dennis Hop, who "owns the moon," according to Wegman.
For some the attraction may be the appeal of a promising investment. At only NIS 250 for 500 square meters of moon, "it is such a small investment that everyone can afford it," Wegner said.
The eventual payoff could be much greater due to a loophole in international law, said Ron Movshovitz, a legal adviser for the Israel Space Society.
The United Nations' Outer Space Treaty banned states from purchasing land in space, but allowed individual citizens to purchase land, said Movshovitz.
As a result, it is possible that in the near future NASA will have to buy land from the private property owners, enabling them to demand large sums for their plots.
However, said Wegman, not all the buyers are concerned with finances. Owning land in outer space appeals to those out for adventure, and many buyers look forward to the time they can visit their properties, he reported.
US-based Space Adventure plans to send tourists to the moon seven to 10 years from now. But at $100 million a trip, space travel will be beyond the budget of many moon land owners.
Instead, they may have to settle for a picture of their property. Crazyshop provides a kit containing an image of the plots marked on a moon map and a certificate of ownership.