Granting “Legal Personhood” To The Moon

Recorded on September 9, 2020

Many space agencies and private space companies see the Moon as a travel destination, source of various resources, and more. But how can we ensure that the Moon stays protected? One archaeologist and space researcher argues that we should make the Moon a person in the eyes of the law. Attorney Ben Barry of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on the radio with WIZN explaining what legal personhood would mean for the Moon.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Joe: 106.7 WIZN. It’s the Stone Temple Pilots with “Interstate Love Song,” heard Queen and David Bowie before that with “Under Pressure.” I’m Joe Vega taking you through your Wednesday “Rocking your Ride Home.” And I’m joined now by Ben Barry from Martin Harding & Mazzotti. Hello, Ben.

Ben: Hello, Joe.

Joe: So I got a question for you, Ben. Should we grant legal personhood to the moon?

Ben: The short answer is yes.

Joe: Really? So if you’re wondering why I’m asking you this question, it seems to be that commercial flights to the moon are soon going to be a thing, and, of course, that raises some legal questions, and an Australian archaeologist has suggested that we give the moon legal personhood.

Ben: Well, conceptually, granting inanimate things personhood bestows upon that item a certain set of rights and possibly responsibilities, but generally rights. For example, there is a river that has been granted personhood and that river or the board of trustees for that river can bring suit against someone who’s polluting the river.

And so it acts kind of like a municipality, kind of like a corporation, kind of like a person. Really, what it’s about, what is at the center of the argument, whether it’s personhood or an incorporation, or make it moon LLC, whatever, is that there are resources on the moon and there are people that want to either conserve those resources or people that want to utilize those resources and mine the moon.

And so right now, I think the competing idea on an international basis is to say, “Let’s just treat this as if it were a person that could not speak for itself, and so let’s appoint an international board of trustees who can make decisions on the moon’s behalf and can limit the mining, or permit the mining, or limit the number of space flights that are able to go there and visit, determine who can dump stuff on the moon.” I mean, if you have a commercial flight to the moon, you’re gonna have waste that needs to be dumped somewhere, and do you dump it on the moon, or do you dump it in the Earth’s orbit, or what do you do?

There will be collisions on commercial flights. One of those commercial flights is going to probably collide with a satellite at some point, we’re gonna have tragedy. Do we scuttle space debris to the moon? How do we deal with all of these things? When exactly are you on the moon? When is it that a person has the right to sue for an infliction of personal damage? So a lot of questions with respect to the moon. The technology and the ability to get to the moon very quickly is upon us.

Joe: Right.

Ben: And people are gonna want to get out there and take things home with them, how do we deal with that? So a lot of questions about the moon, and it really, I think, is setting the stage for larger space exploration because I think it’s clear that that’s where, I think, that the human race is going.

Joe: Wow, man on the moon indeed. All right. Thanks a lot. Ben Barry from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Ben: Joe, thanks. I also think that your listeners should take a look at something called the “Kessler syndrome” because we may need to deal with that too.

Joe: The Kessler syndrome. All right. Well, we’re gonna have to get that one another day, Ben, but thanks for coming on the program.

Ben: Thanks, Joe.

Joe: Remember you can call Ben or any of the fine lawyers of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti at any time at 1800LAW1010 or go online to 1800law1010.com. Mel Allen takes over from here. He’s got music from Bad Company and Tom Petty coming up next.

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