The Planet Pirates

Clive Anderson meets the entrepreneurs who want to sell you chunks of the solar system
You can buy a one acre plot on Venus for £14.25 plus registration fee. The fact that the planet is, and always will be, quite uninhabitable is missing the point. You can do this because Dennis M Hope, a former ventriloquist, went into the offices of San Francisco County and filed a declaration of ownership. He did the same for the moon and the eight remaining planets, duly set up a 'Lunar Embassy' and started to licence others to sell plots. In the case of Mars, there's even a bill of rights written to negotiate possible land disputes between settlers and 'native creatures'.
One million people have paid to hold the deeds to 280 million extraterrestrial acres, and at least 80,000 of these are Britons. Not even former world leaders or celebrities are exempt. One time US presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan are among the world's celestial titleholders, as are film stars Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, John Travolta and Eddie Murphy and even a rumoured member of the Royal family. Three blue-chip companies in the US are thought to have purchased 2.6 million acres, in the hope of mining platinum. And did you know that Pluto is on sale, in its entirety, for $450,000?
Clive examines all this with typical wit, a fair degree of scepticism and sometimes genuine surprise as he tells the astonishing story of how this situation arose in the first place.