Richard Garriott, space tourist, rat tail enthusiast and creator of Ultima and Tabula Rasa (RIP), may also be the first private citizen to have a legitimate claim to ownership of a good portion of the moon.
How, exactly, did Garriott become a possible lunar land owner? Well, way back in 1993, the man known in some circles as Lord British purchased the Russian space rover Lunokhod 2 at a Sotheby’s auction. The piece of equipment, which landed on the moon in 1973 and stopped working that same year, set Garriott back $US68,500.
The Lunokhod 2 had been missing for 37 years, but was spotted in newly released photographs of the moon’s surface by Phil Stooke, a professor at the University of Western Ontario. So, not only does Garriott own a busted piece of machinery on the moon, he believes he has a right to a long swath of moon land.
“I am now the world’s only private owner of an object on a foreign celestial body,” Garriott told NPR’s All Things Considered, “and I’m also the first person that has what you might call a private flag sitting on the moon that allows me to, you know, debate and discuss territorial rights.”
“I think its real value is not in being recovered and, for example, being put in a museum,” he says. “While there are international treaties that say no government will lay claim to property off the planet earth, international convention also says that if you’re a private citizen who discovers a territory that is not claimed by another country already, any of that territory you put to use is yours.”
Garriott believes the 40km worth of moon travel accomplished by the Lunokhod 2 and the expanse that it has surveyed – “as far as its cameras can see” – fall within his domain of moon property ownership.
“I believe I actually do have a foundation for a legit claim for lunar property and I’m the only one to do so,” says Garriott.
Whether Garriott is serious (like, really serious) about his lunar land grab is unclear. But at least he has one more interesting anecdote and another possible reason to appear on the Martha Stewart Show.