POFP was there to celebrate with them. Not literally of course, but who else can provide legal lingo for our next close encounter?
Metalaw is the branch of law governing the relations between humans and other intelligent races. The field was launched by the late Andrew G. Haley in 1956, at a time when movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Man from Planet X fueled the popular feeling that flying saucers could land at any moment. Its founding principle is called the Great Rule: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them” – which is the traditional “Golden Rule” rewritten to accommodate the fact that aliens may have different preferences from humans.
For the most part metalaw is a theoretical exercise, but the United States did enact an Extra-terrestrial Exposure Law in 1969. UFO enthusiasts charged that the purpose of the law was to keep ordinary citizens from contacting aliens. In fact, it was nothing more than an administrative regulation giving NASA the right to force returning astronauts to undergo a quarantine period. The law does at least provide a handy definition of extra-terrestrially exposed:
. . . the state of condition of any person, property, animal or other form of
life or matter whatever, who or which has:
(1) Touched directly or come
within the atmospheric envelope or any other celestial body; or
directly or been in close proximity to (or been exposed indirectly to) any
person, property, animal or other form of life or matter who or which has been
extra-terrestrially exposed by virtue of paragraph (b)(1) of this section.
The regulation even provides a hypothetical illustration of what persons might be forced into quarantine: “if person or thing ‘A’ touches the surface of the Moon, and on ‘A’s’ return to Earth, ‘B’ touches ‘A’ and, subsequently, ‘C’ touches ‘B’, all of these – ‘A’ through ‘C’ inclusive - would be extra-terrestrially exposed.” Which is why, before shaking hands with a stranger, it always pays to ask “have you been away from Earth lately?”
Metalaw is an offshoot of the larger discipline of space law, about which you can read more (much, much more) right here.