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Top 10 People Who Have Claimed Ownership Of Celestial Bodies
As bizarre as it sounds, some people have claimed ownership of celestial bodies, including the Sun and the Moon. Some have even claimed to own other planets, asteroids, or the entire solar system. It’s probably only a matter of time until someone says they own ‘Oumuamua.
Some of these dibs-callers even took their claims further by selling their celestial properties, either in parts or in whole, to willing clients. Here are ten people who feel they’ve planted their flag on various celestial bodies. You can decide for yourself if their claims are valid or take entitlement to a cosmic level.
10 Jenaro Gajardo Vera
Thirty-four-year-old Chilean lawyer and amateur composer Jenaro Gajardo Vera first claimed ownership of the Moon in 1953 after he was stopped from joining a social club because he had no property. He had visited one of the offices of Club Union Social and applied to become a member, but his application was rejected because he had no property, which was a requirement for joining the club.
Gajardo was distraught about the rejection. On his way out, he looked at the Moon and realized that no one owned it. He went to the Chilean agency in charge of property registration and applied to register the Moon as his property. The man in charge warned him about claiming ownership of the Moon because people might call him a fool.
Gajardo was adamant about his claim and was told to publish it thrice in a journal as the law stipulated. He did. No one challenged his claims, and in September 1954, he paid 42 pesos and got the document certifying him as the owner of the Moon. He returned to the Club Union Social with his document and was accepted as a member.
A month before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon in 1969, Gajardo accused the US of trespassing and threatened to take legal action. There are claims (probably false) that Richard Nixon later sent him a telegram, requesting his permission before the astronauts could walk on “his” moon.
Another story goes that the Chilean Bureau of Internal Revenue once accused Gajardo of not paying the required tax on the Moon. Gajardo claimed he didn’t pay the tax because he did not know the true value of the Moon. He invited Bureau inspectors for a meeting on the Moon so that they could value the land by themselves. The inspectors never went.
Gadarjo died on June 29, 1998, and is said to have willed the Moon to all Chileans. However, as of 2005, his granddaughter Ivonne Gajardo Quezada still maintained her family’s claim to owning the Moon.
9 Dennis Hope
Dennis Hope claims to own Earth’s Moon, Io (one of Jupiter’s moons), Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Pluto. He first claimed ownership of the Moon in the 1980s when he realized that the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty barred nations—but not individuals—from claiming ownership of space and any celestial body.
Hope sells his lunar real estate at $19.95 an acre. Lunar tax, shipping, and handling bumps the price up to $36.50 an acre. He offers discounts for larger plots and once sold 2.66 million acres (the size of a country) for $250,000. He avoids selling lunar landmarks and once rejected $50 million from a group wiling to buy the Moon’s north pole.
Hope has made over $11 million from selling acres of the Moon to over six million people, including celebrities like Barbara Walters and Tom Cruise and former US presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. He concentrates on selling the Moon for now because he doesn’t have good enough maps for the other celestial bodies he owns. However, anyone with $250,000 to spare can grab the whole of Pluto.
Hope also heads the Galactic Government, an democratic republic whose citizens are the people who have bought his land. The republic even has its own currency, the delta, which Hope has tried getting the International Monetary Fund and other nations to recognize. Someone once tried challenging Hope’s ownership of the Moon by claiming to own the Sun and sending Hope an energy bill for using the Sun. Hope didn’t pay. Rather, he asked whoever sent the bill to turn the Sun off. Ouch!
8 Greg Nemitz
The near-Earth asteroid (NEA) 433 Eros was independently observed by both Gustav Witt and Auguste Charlois on August 13, 1898. The asteroid became a first in several aspects. It was the first NEA ever identified. It was also the first asteroid ever orbited by a spacecraft and the first that a spacecraft ever landed on. Those feats were achieved by NASA’s NEAR spacecraft on February 14, 2000, and February 12, 2001, respectively.
The landing didn’t sit well with Greg Nemitz, who considered the asteroid his private property. Nemitz claimed the asteroid belonged to him because he was the first person to claim ownership. Apparently, the neither Witt nor Charlois ever claimed to own the asteroid. Nemtiz promptly sent NASA a parking bill of $20 for parking on space 29 of his asteroid’s parking lot. The bill was charged at 20 cents a year for a hundred years. NASA refused to pay, and both went to court. NASA won.
7 Adam Ismail, Mustafa Khalil, And Abdullah Al-Umari
In 1997, three Yemeni men sued NASA for landing the Sojournor rover on Mars. The men, Adam Ismail, Mustafa Khalil, and Abdullah al-Umari, claimed to be descendants of the Himyarite and Sabaean tribes that lived in Arabia during the first millennium BC. They claimed their ancestors had seven temples for seven planets, including Mars, which they all assumed to be the intermediaries to their god.
The men further stated that they had the required paperwork to cement their claim of ownership of the Red Planet. They forwarded their lawsuit to the office of the national prosecutor of Yemen, but he denounced it and even threatened to send them to jail. The trio dropped the charges, but that did not stop them from selling land on Mars for $2 per square mile.
6 Phillip Davies
In 2015, President Obama signed the US Space Act into law. The law allows US companies to keep whatever they mine from any celestial body as theirs. This act made people like Phillip Davies, a doctor from Hampshire, UK, believe we will soon experience the space version of a gold rush.
Dr. Phillip says the 1967 UN Space Treaty, which is supposed to guide the colonization of space and prevent its militarization as well as the ownership of celestial bodies, is outdated. So he claimed ownership of Mars to prevent some other person or country from claiming it.
To cement his claim to the Red Planet, Dr. Phillip shoots a laser at it, which he says is to warm the planet and improve its atmosphere and any life present there. He is also selling plots at one cent each. He has sold plots to 13,000 people so far, and most are people supporting his cause. Dr. Dennis plans to cede Mars to the United Nations once he has enough support.
5 Maria Angeles Duran
Maria Angeles Duran is a Spanish woman who claims to own the Sun. She first claimed ownership of our parent star in 2010, after she realized Dennis Hope was making a fortune selling land on the Moon. In 2013, she opened an eBay account where she sold 1-square-meter (11 ft2) plots on the Sun for €1. Buyers got a certificate for their plot, but there was no mention of how they knew which part of the Sun their plot was located on.
eBay didn’t think someone could own plots of the Sun and banned Duran’s account for selling intangible goods. Duran disagreed. She got her lawyers and pressed charges against eBay. Her argument was that she could sell land on the Sun, a natural resource, if others could sell other natural resources like water and wind.
She also argues that the 1967 UN Space Treaty does not bar individuals from owning celestial bodies. The court didn’t examine whether or not the UN treaty barred people from claiming ownership of the Sun. Rather, it looked into whether Duran really breached eBay’s agreement by selling plots of the Sun.
4 Sylvio Langevin
Canadian Sylvio Langevin did not claim ownership of the Sun, Moon, or a few planets like the others on this list. In 2012, he claimed ownership of all the solar system’s planets (including the Earth), four of Jupiter’s moons, and the whole of space itself. As in, the empty space in space. He sued for ownership and quickly added that only God could challenge his claims to the ownership of these celestial bodies.
Langevin was known for filing hilarious and bogus lawsuits. He filed over 45 between 2001 and 2012 and had been banned from filing more lawsuits without the permission of the court at the time he sued for ownership of most of the solar system. The ban was handed to him in 2009, after he filed a bogus $1 billion lawsuit. If anything, the solar system litigation could have been an attempt to fight the ban.
3 James Thomas Mangan
On the night of December 20, 1948, James Thomas Mangan declared the whole of space as his territory and declared himself its “first representative.” His claim on space generated interest in the press, and reporters and television crews even followed him to register his new country with the recorder of deeds of Cook County, Illinois.
The recorder of deeds refused to acknowledge Mangan’s claims until the state attorney general passed a judgment in Mangan’s favor. Mangan followed up his claims with a letter to the UN and 74 secretaries of state, asking them to recognize his new country. He also requested that the UN accept his nation as a member state. The UN turned down his request. However, that did not stop him from raising his national flag in front of the UN building in New York.
Mangan also introduced a coin, which he called the Celeston, as the official legal tender of his country. He often sent Celestons to astronauts along with a passport to the Moon. He initially stated his intention of selling Earth-sized plots of space for $1 a plot. However, he returned people’s money when they requested to buy. Mangan died in 1970 and willed his nation to his descendants.
2 Martin Juergens
Martin Juergens is another claimant to the Moon. He claims King Frederick the Great gifted the Moon to his family back in the 18th century. The story goes that King Frederick often visited one of Juergen’s ancestors, who was a farmer and healer, to treat a bad gout. Besides the treatment, the healer also blessed the king and was one of the reasons for his victory in the Seven Years’ War.
In appreciation, the impressed king gifted the Moon to the Juergens’s family and decreed that every last child of the family will continue to own the Moon as long as the Earth existed. Martin Juergens challenged Dennis Hope over ownership of the Moon, but Hope brushed him off and stated that Juergens did not have the required paperwork to back up his claim.
Juergens claimed the decree gifting his family ownership of the Moon, dated July 15, 1756, was actually filmed by several TV crews. Juergens hasn’t sold any plot on the Moon so far. He could have even been claiming to own the Moon because he wanted Hope to stop selling plots there.
1 The Elves’, Gnomes’, And Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder, And Marching Society
The Elves’, Gnomes’, and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society (that is the real name of the society; we are not kidding) claimed ownership of part of the Moon in February 1952 after supposedly discovering that it contained deposits of sylvanite.
The science fiction club from Berkley wrote to the UN, requesting for a patent and title of ownership of their part of the Moon. In exchange, it would give the UN 90 percent of the profits recovered from mining the mineral. The letter was sent to Oscar Schachter, the director of the UN’s legal department. Similar letters were also sent to President Harry Truman and several media agencies.
The society was not serious with its claim. The whole thing was merely a publicity stunt to raise more funds. However, their popularity ballooned more than they could imagine after it was reported in the press. President Truman never replied to the letter, but Oscar Schachter replied after series of letters. He clarified that the UN had no jurisdiction over the Moon and could not give them what they wanted.
Read about more attempts to do more than just explore space on 10 Bizarre Attempts To Make Money From Outer Space and 10 Doomed Attempts To Militarize Outer Space.