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Tanja Masson-Zwaan on Radio Weetlust: Who does the moon belong to?

Assistant Professor Space Law Tanja Masson-Zwaan appeared as a guest on the Radio Weetlust programme of local Leiden radio station Sleutelstad FM. She talked about, among other things, who does the moon actually belong to and why we all would like to go there so badly.

Tanja Masson-Zwaan

‘The moon belongs to no-one and to all of us,’ says Masson-Zwaan on the radio programme. ‘That has all been established in the space treaty from 1967. Nobody is allowed to own the moon. That can sometimes lead to problems: an American private citizen once decided he was not party to the treaty and started selling pieces of the moon for 30 dollars. Rubbish, of course, an individual is a person having legal capacity of a state. When a state signs a treaty, all the persons having legal capacity are obligated to adhere to it.’

So, who decides when you can do something on the moon? ‘That should be agreed upon collectively by countries. There is a moon treaty, which mostly addresses commercial use of celestial bodies. There are only a few participating countries, the Netherlands is one of the signatories. The most important natural source everybody is currently looking for on the moon is water. There is ice on the poles of the moon. If there is enough water on the moon, you would be able to sustain a mission conducted by humans. You would also be able to create fuel for a flight to Mars, for instance. That saves a lot of costs when compared to a flight to Mars from the earth.’

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