Chances are, you can find a lawyer that specializes in almost any kind of law. However, one of the more out of the box legal fields is outer space law. Just like airplane accident lawyers are the ones to turn to when you’re dealing with a case regarding an unorthodox aircraft like a hot air balloon, you should also turn to them when dealing with a space case.
Here’s a breakdown of some wild legal claims and cases regarding ownership of outer space.
1. Aul Jergen and his descendants
One of the earliest people to lay claim to ownership of the moon is King Frederick the Great of Prussia, who ruled in the mid-1700s. However, in return for services provided by the great healer of the time, Aul Jergen, King Frederick is said to have bequeathed the moon to him.
Jergen’s descendant, Martin, tried in 1996 to claim ownership of the moon through his relationship to his ancestor Aul. A year after he attempted to claim this, the Netherlands’ Institute for Science and Law denied the claim, because King Frederick never owned the moon when he bequeathed it to the healer, and therefore this lack of ownership made Martin’s claim void.
2. Sylvio Langvein
In January 2012, a Canadian man, Sylvio Langvein, filed a suit declaring himself the owner of all of the planets in the solar system, as well as four of Jupiter’s moons and the interplanetary space between all of them. When asked for his reason for doing so, Langvein reportedly said that he was trying to collect planets, the same way some people will collect stamps or baseball cards, as well as trying to keep China from owning the planets instead.
The judge dismissed Langvein as a quarrelsome litigant exhibiting paranoid tendencies and actions; this had in fact been the plaintiff’s 45th suit since 2001.
3. A. Dean Lindsay
In 1936, this entrepreneurial man requested notarization of a document claiming that he owned every planet and other mass in space, and calling the collection Lindsay’s Archipelago. (In actuality, he misspelled “archipelago.”) There were a couple of exceptions, however: Lindsay reasoned that the Earth belonged to its own inhabitants and therefore he would lay no claim to it. He also drew up separate documents claiming his ownership of the moon as well as Saturn. The documents were also registered in Irwin County in Georgia.
Lindsay planned to make a profit off of his planets, but unfortunately, he died before the moon landing of 1969 before he could charge anyone at NASA with trespassing.
4. James Thomas Mangan
James Thomas Mangan of Evergreen Park, Illinois, created a claim to all of space, a country he called the Nation of Celestial Space (Celestia for short) in 1949. He presented the charter for this newly founded nation to the officials in Cook County, where it gathered some media attention.
Mangan also wrote to 74 different countries, asking them to formally recognize Celestia and also applied to join the United Nations. (They denied his request).
Mangan kept up his advocacy throughout the Space Race when he was enraged that the Soviet Union had “trespassed” into his territory by sending their spacecraft Sputnik into space. When he grew too old to oversee the nation, he passed it along to his descendants. Although he died in 1970, his grandchildren still oversee the “nation.”
5. Martian Yemenites
In 1997, when the NASA Pathfinder mission made its landing on Mars, Arabic media picked up on three Yemeni men who wanted to sue the agency for trespassing. The men filed a suit with the Yemeni Prosecutor General, on the grounds that they had inherited Mars from their ancestors from 3,000 years ago, dating back to mythologies from the ancient Himyaritic and Sabaean civilizations.
Although the three men demanded an immediate cessation of NASA’s Mars-related activities and an information blackout on any data collected regarding the atmosphere of Mars, the prosecutor threw out the case, calling the plaintiffs “abnormal.”