Jaime Maussan is Mexico’s leading ufologist. His TV show, Contact, has run for decades, and he consistently packs auditoriums, where he enlightens audiences with his knowledge of the cosmos and life on other planets. He has many detractors, of course, and he’s no stranger to being called a fraud.
We met Jaime at his house in the forest right outside Mexico City, and he gave us a tour of the tunnels of his underground abode. He also showed us his monkeys and told us about some of his most exhilarating adventures. But most importantly, he shared with us his vision of life outside our planet.
This Guy Has Owned the Moon Since 1980 Because He Says So
Becoming a planet owner is a lot easier than you might think. All you have to do is take a quick glance at an astronomical map, pick out whichever planet or moon tickles your fancy, tell everyone you own it, and you’re set. It’s a little like telling a man in a bar that you own his freshly bought pint because you say you do, only less dangerous because there’s no one to hospitalize you in outer space.
Dennis M. Hope is an American man who did just that and is now planet overlord of the moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Io (one of Jupiter’s moons). Dennis happened to be broke when he started collecting planets and worked out a way to monetize his new hobby: claim legal ownership via the UN, subdivide his extra-terrestrial land and sell it off in chunks. It’s probably about the best business model I’ve ever heard of (besides Ponzi schemes, obviously—those things are golden), which may be why Dennis has been able to use the celestial property game as his sole source of income since 1995.
My dad was gifted a nugget of moon for his birthday this year from Dennis’ company, Moon Estates, which reminded me of all the times I’d heard about similar gifts and thought, This is is dumb, how can anybody own the moon? So I gave Dennis a call to help put my cynicism to bed.
The author’s dad’s deed to land on the moon.
VICE: Hi Dennis. How did you end up owning and selling off chunks of the moon?
Dennis M. Hope: I started in 1980 when I was going through a divorce. I was out of money and thought maybe I could make some if I owned some property, then I looked out the window, saw the moon, and thought, Hey, there’s a load of property! So I went to the library, looked up the 1968 Outer Space Treaty and, sure enough, Article 2 stated: “No nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies.” Meaning it was unowned land.
But how did you acquire it?
I just filed a claim of ownership for the moon, the other eight planets and their moons, and sent it to the United Nations with a note stating that my intent was to subdivide and sell the property to anybody who wanted it. I told them that if they had a legal problem with it they should please let me know.
Did they ever get back to you?
They never responded. Shame on them! I’ve never had a challenge to my claim of ownership by any government on this planet, period. I’ve had a lot of people telling me I don’t have the right to do this, but that’s just their opinion.
So how much land have you sold so far?
Well, this is the only job I’ve had since 1995, which is when I started doing this full-time. We’ve sold 611 million acres of land on the moon, 325 million acres on Mars and a combined 125 million acres on Venus, Io, and Mercury.
Let’s Colonize Outer Space
I would like to donate my ova to NASA so that they can raise babies in a highly controlled environment, see how human physiology changes over time/in weird circumstances, and help us get on track to colonize Mars. And, NASA, don’t worry about the ethics committees—I won’t tell them if you don’t.
As Carl Sagan once said, we need to be a two-planet species. Anyone with half a brain should be able to take a look around and go, “Oh yeah, it’s kind of overpopulated and uncomfortable here, we should go to space.” It astounds me that most people ignore this topic in their daily lives, even going so far as to ridicule it when it comes up in conversation. We’re practically already in outer space! Don’t you think we’re kind of putting all our eggs in one basket? NASA, let’s start taking some bigger risks here. Conduct an experimental euthanasia mission already, why don’t you?
All I want to do is help manage the future equivalents of scurvy, smallpox, the bubonic plague, et al. We’re all familiar with how kooky and turbulent the colonization of America was, and the same goes for Canada’s east coast—do you think that wasn’t sketchy and insane for some pansy-ass French aristocrats? If we want to hitch a ride to the red planet before Earth becomes one giant, uninhabitable superstorm, maybe we should start getting our act together.
The Space Composer
I am not someone who has a background in science. While it always intrigued me, it was not something that ever came innately. Working at Motherboard has helped me redefine the somewhat nebulous notion of science and what application it has in real life. As we started planning the second season of our Spaced Out series, it seemed important that we look to feature non-scientists thinking about the future of space.
Enter Robert Alexander, a classically trained composer who has always been fascinated with the sky. As Robert was thinking about his thesis he determined that he was interested in the practice of sonification. For those of you who are unfamiliar, sonification is defined simply as is the process of displaying data in an audio format (other than traditional speech). Robert was interested in listening to data and garnering what he and the world can learn from it. We go into it deeper in the piece, but I thought of it as such a novel idea. One thinks that most problems have a linear solution, but that is not the world we live in. There can and always will be another and maybe more creative way of finding the solution.
Anyone with enough brains and balls can build their own rocket and fly it to space. Or at least that’s what the non-profit, open source space project Copenhagen Suborbitals wants the world to realize.
Last September, we scuttled out to Denmark to meet the pioneers behind this new wave in do-it-yourself space exploration to find out how these backyard space rockets are made. Founded in 2008 by Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen, Copenhagen Suborbitals is now comprised of a coterie of 20-plus specialists determined to create the first homemade, manned spacecraft to go into suborbital flight.
If successful—a manned launch is projected for sometime in the next few years—Denmark would be the fourth country in the world, after China, to successfully launch a manned rocket into space. What’s exceptional about such a feat, if completed, will be Kristian and Peter’s ability to do so on a shoestring budget of a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus the tens of millions of dollars it costs government-funded agencies and the rising tide of private companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Bigelow.
At Wallaman Falls, between Townsville and Cairns, in north Queensland, the Full Moon enlightens the landscape and its light, combined with the water of the fall, creates a Moonbow. A bright shooting star crosses the Milky Way during the exposure.
Thierry Legault is not your average amateur astronomer, inviting the kids over and pointing a dinky backyard telescope at the Big Dipper. He’s a renowned astrophotographer, painstakingly chronicling the orbits of planets, distant galaxies, spaceships, and—to the chagrin of the intelligence community—of the spy satellites we’re not supposed to see.
These days, we are inundated with a constant feed of reality defying images sent back to us from space by the very carefully calibrated equipment we send up there. But for Thierry, the act of capturing space is a much more personal process. It’s man versus nature.