10 1997 NASA Mars Court Case
When NASA landed the Sojourner and Pathfinder probes on Mars, the world heralded the expedition as a great step forward for humanity. But not everyone was thrilled. In 1997, three Yemeni men sued NASA for trespassing on what they considered their property.
According to these men, they had inherited the planet from their ancient ancestors who had lived on Mars 3,000 years before the NASA mission. They based their claim on obscure references in Himyaritic and Sabaean mythologies and a liberal interpretation of the ancient texts.
Yemeni courts viewed the men as insane. Nevertheless, the men demanded a meeting with the US ambassador and asked NASA for a complete blackout of all Mars data until the two parties reached a settlement. As publicity increased, Yemeni government officials tired of the shenanigans and told the men that they would be imprisoned if the case wasn’t dropped. The men complied quickly.
However, even though the case was dropped, the men continued to try to make money from Mars. They still claimed ownership but expanded their scheme. In 1998, they announced that they were selling plots on Mars for $2 per square meter ($11 per ft2) and pledged to use the money to restore several ancient cities.
Few people took the business seriously because an international treaty states that any land not on Earth does not belong to any one person. Still, a bit of money was made from people too gullible to notice a blatant scam.