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Dr Philip Davies is a Hampshire-based GP on a mission to stop Mars from “falling into the wrong hands”. He has been shining a laser at the Red Planet for more than a decade to highlight the need for an update to the Outer Space Treaty. The 53-year-old agreement prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space, limits the use of celestial bodies to peaceful purposes only, and establishes that no nation may claim sovereignty of outer space or any celestial body.
Dr Davies told Express.co.uk how his agency, Mars Register Ltd, has been “showering” the planet with “very high powered lasers” which causes billions of photons to hit the surface.
Occasionally, one liberates a molecule of CO2 from the soil, which is apparently enough to tread the path to gain possession of unclaimed land by “improving it”.
He said: “The effect of such powerful lasers on the geo-atmosphere of Mars is very small, it is a definite but small positive influence – we liberate extra CO2 molecules into the Martian atmosphere.”
Now Dr Davies tells Express.co.uk that his claim, along with 180,000 others on the ‘Mars Register‘ has been “validated” in a report by leading space expert Professor Frans von der Dunk.
The UK could be ‘first in line’ to claim Mars (Image: GETTY)
Dr Philip Davies has been shining a light at Mars for 12 years (Image: SUPPLIED)
The 55-year-old said: “There is no way you can currently own land in space, the law does not allow that.
“But possession is different, modern law at international level recognises the correct route to gaining ownership is through demonstrating possession.
“No one has ever attempted to show and claim possession. We have.”
Prof von der Dunk is the Director Public Relations of the International Institute of Space Law and advises the likes of NASA, ESA, the EU and the UN on their activities in the cosmos.
He delivered two reports to Dr Davies, including a 13-page document, titled ‘Legal Reality Check,’ on the legal status of the claim.
The Hampshire doctor claims his attempt has been ‘validated’ (Image: SUPPLIED)
Speaking to Express.co.uk exclusively Prof von der Dunk admitted that “neither I, nor anyone else can [currently] ‘validate’ his claim that he owns Mars” due to the Outer Space Treaty.
But, he added: “That does not mean his claim as such is illegal, in the sense that merely voicing it would make him subject to criminal sanctions, but it also means that everyone else can safely ignore that at least as long as the Outer Space Treaty continues to rule.
“The report validates the truth of the agency’s space activities, which is saying ‘yes, he is shooting lasers at Mars’.
“I also explained in the report that his de facto activities with regard to Mars may not be illegal but that this still does not mean anything like legal ownership of the area with all that entails.
“Regardless of the fact that in certain terrestrial national legal regimes de facto ownership has often been allowed to be semi-automatically ‘translated’ into ‘real’, legally meaningful ownership.
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Incredible facts and figures about Mars (Image: GETTY)
“The term de facto possession in this context only means that he is, currently and apparently, the only one doing these things with lasers to the Martian surface and that no one so far can legally stop him from doing that.”
Prof von der Dunk says that the current activity “potentially might” serve in the future as “giving rise to legal ownership rights,” if there is a change in the treaty.
Dr Davies commented: “It is very much legal talk, but ultimately what he has said is we are the first people ever and the only ones who will be in pure possession of the land on Mars.
“This has never happened before. Admittedly he has said it is very primitive, but nevertheless, it’s factual possession.
“He goes on to say that, as the law stands, that cannot go into ownership, but he admits that if the law evolves it could allow property rights in space to exist.
“If that happens, he has said our claim would be first in line for legal consideration.”
The jury is still out on the claims (Image: GETTY)
Dr Davies previously believed his claim would stand without a change to the law, but now he admits that “we cannot progress our claim without a slight change in the law”.
He adds: “Until such time as it does, our actions are considered British actions.
“Even though I said there are people from every country involved, Mars Register Ltd is based in the UK and I, as founder and director, am based in the UK.
“So it’s really up to the UK to authorise and monitor this claim.
“So if I, we, are in possession, it means the British state is also in possession.”
Space law expert Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz believes there will be huge changes coming to space and the way it is managed.
Dr Davies says the law needs to change ‘slightly’ (Image: SUPPLIED)
She noted: “Currently, the legality or not, of numerous space activities is being hotly debated at both the national and international levels.
“There are fully recognised principles of space law and their applications.
“However, there are many novel activities being proposed and discussed.
“In the time frame that The Martians [propose] to operate there will be many activities that will require the agreement by the international community and the development of precedent.
“In short, the relevant legal and political environments are highly dynamic and [offer] no certainty for novel, unprecedented space activities.”
Dr P.J. Blount is an adjunct professor in Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
He told Express.co.uk how he has been monitoring the “interesting and creative project” and stressed that he agreed with the “underlying philosophy”.
Currently no one can claim a body in space (Image: GETTY)
But, he stated: “I have large doubts as to the efficacy of the approach and whether a laser can result in the ‘factual possession’ that Dr Davies hopes that it will.”
Dr Blout also believed that Dr Davies’ comment that the report “validates” his claim “is a vast overstatement”.
He explained: “[The report] seems to say that it’s not impossible that this activity could become factual possession, but that at the moment there is no clear legal basis for this to happen.”
Others were less convinced.
Some experts refused to comment, while others joked about how they would be claiming “all the lands beyond Mars, including all 4000 known exoplanets” simply because they had “seen them with their eyes”.
Fabio Tronchetti is the Co-Director of the Institute of Space Law and Strategy at the University of Mississippi and he takes issue with the basis of the claim.
He told Express.co.uk: “I am not sure that I concur with the claim that the ‘repeated application of strong laser beams from Earth to Mars’ might amount to a form of ‘factual possession’, even though it is in an embryonical form.
“Factual possession requires an appropriate degree of physical control that, in my opinion, is not reached through the shooting of laser beams.
“Secondly, any sovereignty claims over celestial bodies’ or any of its parts, is illegal under international space law.
“Such an illegality is even more pronounced in the case of a private company. Pursuant to Article Six of the Outer Space Treaty, a private company requires authorisation from its national State in order to engage in space activities.
“As the UK is not entitled to appropriate Mars (or any other celestial body in our solar system), consequently it would not have the right to authorise the private appropriation of any part of the ‘Martian soil’ by a UK entity.”
Finally, the expert added that because the “activities of the Martians have not been licensed by the Government,” it does not mean that the state recognises their legality.
But, he concluded: “Another way to look at it, is that the sending of a laser beam does not amount to a space activity under UK space law, so there is no need for an authorisation.”