Next week sees the start of a legal action which could herald a new age for the space industry.
In the case known as Mr Alexander Cravat vs The European Space Agency, the plaintiff, Mr Cravat, is seeking damages against the ESA because one of their satellites has been casting a permanent shadow over his house for the last twenty years.
Lurkersat is an artificial satellite that was launched in 1997 to conduct long term studies into the presence of icing sugar in the upper atmosphere. Not only was this mission expensive, frivolous and entirely pointless, it was also apparently necessary to place the satellite in a fixed geostationary orbit above number 22 High Street, Shepton Bassett, and Mr Cravat has experienced a permanent eclipse ever since.
In a recent interview Mr Cravat said that the last two decades had been 'absolute hell'.
Lurkersat, he says, has been responsible for drastically lowering the value of the property, has directly led to the breakdown of his marriage and has had a catastrophic impact on his health, mainly as a result of vitamin D deficiency.
"The most heart-breaking thing is that I can't even enjoy my garden anymore, " he told us. "I used to be quite a keen gardener. I even won prizes for my fruit and veg. But now my tomatoes are all soggy and my turnip has gone limp. It's very sad."
The European Space Agency has not responded to the complaint, nor has it issued a statement of any kind. They have given no indication that they are taking the action seriously and it seems unlikely that anyone from the organisation will be in attendance at the preliminary hearing on Tuesday.
Most legal experts concur that Mr Cravat stands very little chance of success unless he can prove that the ESA were negligent when deciding where to stick their satellite.
Mr Cravat, on the other hand, believes that the issue of negligence doesn't enter into it. He is firmly of the opinion that the ESA deliberately placed their satellite in orbit over his house because he was rude to one of their staff during a booze run to Boulogne in 1991.
Experts await the outcome of the case with interest.
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