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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 18:20 GMT
Supermarket offers slice of big cheese
Moon AP
Landing a slice of the Moon with your weekly shop
It is the annual seasonal dilemma: "What do you buy the person who has everything for Christmas?"

The answer is not a million miles away... how about a slice of the Moon from your local supermarket?

Safeway is the latest retailer to cash in on the alternative Christmas gifts bandwagon by inviting customers to buy a slice of lunar real estate for 15.99 an acre.

Alternative presents
adopt an otter
tour of favourite football club
circus skills workshop
shark diving
In return, they receive a presentation pack with a deed, a copy of the "Lunar Constitution" and a map showing the location of their plot of land.

A spokeswoman for Safeway said: "Owning an acre of the Moon is just like owning a star. "You can't touch or see it, but it's yours to keep."

Moore BBC
Patrick Moore dismisses offer
But the renowned astronomer Patrick Moore has dismissed the offer, saying that no-one actually owns the Moon.

He said: "People are selling star names too, which they can't do. If anyone is fool enough to buy them, that's up to them."

Safeway's venture into new retail galaxies comes just weeks after WH Smith offered customers the opportunity to fly on the first commercial flight to the Moon if they posted a 150,000 deposit.


I don't think anybody has a claim to any bit of the solar system

John Tate, Armagh Planetarium

But moonstruck shoppers are being warned not to be too hasty. Their ownership document may not be worth the paper it is written on.

"I don't think anybody has a claim to any bit of the Solar System," said astronomy lecturer John Tate, at the Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland.

"The only body which can officially name craters on the Moon, stars or any body in the Universe is the International Astronomical Union."

Online Moon sales

But Safeway isn't the only entrepreneur to try the cosmic sales pitch.

Moon worshippers can buy a slice of the big cheese online at www.moonestates.com.

The website has been set up by a Cornish businessman, who claims to have "exclusive rights to legally sell land on the Moon in the UK".

And the sky is the limit. In the near future, the company plans to sell land on Mars, Venus, and Jupiter's moon, Io.
Moon
Is the Moon really for sale?

But again, the legal experts are advising people not to take the concept too seriously.

Property lawyer David Taylor, from the London legal firm, Herbert Smith, said: "There's no established law which would allow any individual or organisation to give valid title to a piece of land on the moon.

"These are designed to be tongue in cheek and should be treated as such."

Legal rights to the Moon probably won't be resolved until the dream of commercial space travel becomes a reality and that may well be several decades away.

Until then, people scratching their heads for the alternative Christmas present, will no doubt be claiming this a huge leap for mankind.

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