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Sunday, March 22, 1998 Published at 13:23 GMT


Yemenis claim Mars

Three men from Yemen have offered to sell land on Mars to interested investors. The three claimed ownership of the planet last year in a law suit filed against the American Space Agency NASA. The court did not take them seriously but, as Barbara Plett reports, these innovative entrepreneurs have not given up on their bizarre mission.

It's a bargain really - $2 a square metre for a plot of your own on the red planet. The three men who claimed the right to sell the land handed out the statements in mid-March assuring buyers they would be issued a deed of ownership for their new property.

Newspapers quoted them saying there was a great deal of enthusiasm since most poor Yemenis cannot afford a piece of land on planet Earth. But observers who have been following the Mars drama since it began dismissed the offer as, at best the latest antics of three eccentric Yemenis on a lark, at worse an amateur scam to get rich quickly.

The self-proclaimed land holders have expanded on a failed court case filed last July. At that time they accused NASA of trespassing on land owned by their ancestors by exploring Mars with its Pathfinder space craft.

They based their argument on mythologies of the Himyaritic and Sabaean civilizations that existed several thousand years before Christ. Now they say they have timed the announcement of their sale with the anniversaries of several ancient cities and will use the money to restore them.

Whatever their motives it's unlikely they will get more than a handful of customers and it's even more unlikely customers will ever get anything but a property deed.

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