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3 Yemenis sue NASA for trespassing on Mars


They say they inherited it 3,000 years ago

July 24, 1997
Web posted at: 10:44 p.m. EDT (0244 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- No one expects to lose much sleep over it but, for the record, NASA has been sued by three men from Yemen for invading Mars.

The three say they own the red planet, and claim they have documents to prove it.

"We inherited the planet from our ancestors 3,000 years ago," they told the weekly Arabic-language newspaper Al-Thawri, which published the report Thursday.

Adam Ismail, Mustafa Khalil and Abdullah al-Umari filed the lawsuit in San'a, Yemen, and presented documents to the country's prosecutor general which they say proves their claim. There was no word on whether they had paid the appropriate inheritance taxes.

The claim is prompted, apparently, by the exploration of Mars by NASA's Pathfinder spacecraft and Sojourner rover, which have been sending back photos and data for analysis since early July.

"Sojourner and Pathfinder, which are owned by the United States government, landed on Mars and began exploring it without informing us or seeking our approval," the men charge.

They demand the immediate suspension of all operations on Mars until a court delivers a verdict. They also ask that NASA refrain from disclosing any information pertaining to Mars' atmosphere, surface or gravity before receiving approval from them, or until a verdict is reached.

'It's a ridiculous claim'

"It's a ridiculous claim," NASA news chief Brian Welch told CNN Thursday after smothering a chuckle. "Mars is a planet out in the solar system that is the property of all humanity, not two or three guys in Yemen."

Richard Cook, the Pathfinder mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, agreed. "It's everybody's," he said. "Mars is for the whole world to explore and to understand."

Welch says a 1967 international treaty holds that everything in the solar system, except Earth itself, is the property of everyone in the world and no one country.

"Just because we land on Mars first doesn't mean the United States owns it," he said.

Welch said he thought the issue could get more serious in the future "when people actually are going to these places and the resources found have some value. ... More complicated issues will have to be resolved between countries, or between companies."

Taking the opportunity to clear the air on another galactic real estate matter, Welch said he knew of no plans to take legal action against a man who has been selling deeds to property on the moon.

Welch said the deeds are as worthless as the Yemenis' claims. "That's why they invented the phrase 'Caveat emptor' [Let the buyer beware]," he said.

Destination Mars CNN Plus

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