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Court to Decide If Man Can Keep His Moon Rock 390

Posted by samzenpus
from the dark-side-of-the-moon-rocks dept.
Joe Gutheinz, a former senior investigator for NASA's Office of Inspector General, has made it his goal to collect all 230 moon rocks presented by the US to governments around the world, and put them in a museum. Deadliest Catch Captain Coleman Anderson wants to keep his little piece of the moon. Anderson says he found the rock in the trash mixed with debris following a fire at an Anchorage museum in 1973. He's kept it as a good luck charm ever since. "Our astronauts and their descendants are not permitted to have an Apollo 11-era moon rock to sell for their own enrichment and neither should a private citizen who acquired one in a less-noble manner," Gutheinz said. An Alaskan judge will now decide who legally owns the rock.
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Court to Decide If Man Can Keep His Moon Rock

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  • Good call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osgeld (1900440) on Monday July 11, 2011 @12:37PM (#36723256)

    Maybe he should have let the thing go on in the trash, then where would your precious little moon rock be? But that's what you get for trying, sued

  • by sheehaje (240093) on Monday July 11, 2011 @12:42PM (#36723338)

    "Our astronauts and their descendants are not permitted to have an Apollo 11-era moon rock to sell for their own enrichment and neither should a private citizen who acquired one in a less-noble manner,"

    The way I see it, the guy saved it from being buried in some landfill somewhere. I'm sure none of that matters to the courts, but I can't see trying to slander the guy for wanting to keep what he found. Also, it doesn't sound like he's trying to cash in on it (at least not yet), but is rather fond of his "good luck charm".

  • wow what a shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Monday July 11, 2011 @12:48PM (#36723446) Journal

    we should just go get a bunch more rocks so that they are not valuable. it's a damned rock. but since we're apparently stuck on this one forever, they are worth more than gold.

    did you people know the top of the washington monument is made of aluminium? cause that used to be precious too.

    let the dude keep his pebble. lets be noble and go back to the moon. we used to be good at it.

  • by jzarling (600712) on Monday July 11, 2011 @12:51PM (#36723504)
    Coleman -
    Give it back - sure you saved it and restored the plaque, but its a moon rock it belongs to the public.

    State of Alaska -
    Thank him for safe keeping a state treasure,
    Display the Rock in a museum, and include the message of thanks to Coleman for keeping what you thought was junk, but was also historically valuable.
    make sure you never loose this thing again.

    All sides drop all lawsuits.

    Everyone move on.
  • Re:Good call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday July 11, 2011 @12:55PM (#36723590)

    Why is such a selfless motivation necessary? No, he wasn't "saving it from being lost". He saw something cool and saved it FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT, but the reality is that that motivation is what saved this rock from being lost in the first place. In 200 years it will quite possibly still be known and cataloged - long after he's gone. If the government's response is to sue people for doing such things though, then why bother in the first place?

    To put it more bluntly: would you rather it be in a private collection or lost completely? Those are your two options.

  • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday July 11, 2011 @12:57PM (#36723608) Homepage Journal
    Buzz Aldrin should fly to Alaska, punch this guy in the nose, and recover the moon rock for the benefit of Mankind. And let a camera crew from the History channel tag along for the lulz.
  • by v1 (525388) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:00PM (#36723672) Homepage Journal

    It's a chain-of-ownership issue here. If NASA loaned the rock to the museum for display, and they accidentally tossed it out, NASA still owns it, all the way to the dump and beyond. Just because you lose track of something doesn't mean you don't own it anymore. You have to give it away, sell it, transfer it, abandon it, or have it confiscated, to lose ownership over it. Valuable things are rarely donated to museums, they are more often put on exhibit on a temporary or permanent basis.

    Right now that's looking like the case. But further details could emerge. Maybe NASA gave them 11 rocks along with other stuff, and asked for "all 10 rocks back and you can dispose of the rest of the exhibit", which would transfer ownership of rock #11 to the museum, which threw it out (abandoned it) and then in the trash pile it does become finders-keepers.

  • by Evtim (1022085) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:06PM (#36723776)

    I say, give the man custody over the rock for the duration of his life if it is his "lucky charm". Make sure that all hell rains on him if he tries to profit. Include proper clause in his will. Collect after his death. If he dies in a manner that makes the rock non-retrievable (say a boat sinks with him on board), write it off as an act of God and write an article in Nature that moon rocks are not so lucky after all...

  • Re:Good call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mswhippingboy (754599) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:18PM (#36723952)

    For gods sake dude, the guy found this in the debris from a fire at a museum. Don't you feel he had an obligation to return this to the museum? It's not like he was just strolling along the beach and found it washed up.

    By your logic, anytime there is a fire or other disaster that damages a building, everyone is free to jump in dig for booty. I think the word for this is "looting".

  • Offer him FMV... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HogGeek (456673) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:21PM (#36724020)

    According to the TFA, the item was "presented to the state of Alaska in 1969 by President Nixon".

    If the museum was run by the state, then they tossed it, and he owns it...

  • Re:Good call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath (553296) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:28PM (#36724134)

    The museum went right over all the debris, took what they wanted, declared the rest trash/unsalvageable, and rescinded ownership of it.

    If anything they ought to have to pay this guy for doing what they were too fucking lazy to do: restore the piece to condition.

  • by japhmi (225606) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:43PM (#36724394)

    As it is, they're being petty bullies.

    Well that's what you get when you let Republicans take office.

    Yes, because the current Administration is Republican. Wait a second....

    You do realize that it's the Executive branch who would be doing the suing, right? You are also informed that the current Chief Executive is not a Republican, nor is the current Administrator of NASA a Republican Appointee?

  • Re:Take it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by melikamp (631205) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:50PM (#36724542) Homepage Journal

    I have no sympathy for this dude.

    "He was a 17-year-old, and the curator of the museum was close, like a father to him," said Seattle attorney Daniel Harris, who is representing Anderson.
    After the museum fire and cleanup, garbage trucks were sent in to haul off the remaining debris, and Anderson claims he was combing through it when he discovered the plaque, which was coated with a thick layer of melted materials.

    The lawsuit said Anderson left with the plaque in full view of the garbage-removal workers.

    Gutheinz also pointed out that the wooden plaque shows no sign of fire damage.

    He knew exactly what he was looking at, but decided to be all coy, even if we are to believe his story. I am sure that curators would have taken the rocks if notified, but somehow this never occurred to him. <gollum, gollum> He decided that the state gave up on a moon rock because garbage removal workers missed it in a pile of rabble. He should consider himself lucky for keeping it for so long, but IMHO, he should have returned it to a museum back then, and it's definitely not too late to return it now. On the other hand, it's just a rock, so it really is not a big deal one way or the other.

    Anyway, here is your moment of Zen:

    Three state governors accidentally took their state's rocks home after leaving office.

    How? Did they confuse them with office supplies?

  • Re:Good call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Monday July 11, 2011 @02:04PM (#36724800)

    "Doing the honorable thing" and being a thief are two different things. Furthermore, the Supreme Court IIRC did not care if the trash was out on the street or not. It was in the trash.

    Your opinion on what is honorable is different than what is legal.

    How do you know where the trash was located? I read the article. Anderson only took it after the garbage men, instructed by the Museum to throw anything not salvageable, picked it up and restored it. It was coated with melted materials.

    So in actuality, he did wait until the garbage men made it trash by throwing it away. You are acting upon a belief that he was rummaging through the remains in the middle of the night, when in fact, he was there in plain daylight by virtue of a close relationship with the curator.

    If you read further, once he determined what it was, he kept it as a memento of the Museum and back in those days people expected space flights to be a commonplace event in 20 years. He did not think at the time (he was 17) that it was going to be one of a couple hundred Moon rocks in existence.

    "Should of" and "legally bound to do so" are two different things. So you can freely express your belief that he should return the rock, but retract your statement of thievery because it is simply untrue. According to facts at hand.

    Also, let's remember this. According to the facts... he started the lawsuit after being made aware of the search and intentions to collect all the rocks. So he did come forward after nearly 40 years, in an honorable fashion, to dispute ownership.

    He could of have just quietly smiled and spent the twilight years of his life looking it at on the wall of his home and we might not have known the location for another 50-100 years.

    Did he do that? No. He came forward and said he claimed it from the trash in full view of the authorities and museum, restored it, and has kept it from further harm for 40 years.

    He did not steal it. He did not buy it from the black market. He has not attempted to quietly sell it on the black market for millions either.

    So give the man the credit he deserves and stop denigrating him without cause. Let the court decide in this case if he can claim salvage rights, etc.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Monday July 11, 2011 @02:15PM (#36725006)
    NASA gave away the rocks. Then complains when they end up in the hands of people they don't want to have them. They should have done what museums do and put things on permanent loan so that they would retain ownership but let others have use of them. But no, they give them away then demand them back on whims. Like you say, when a EULA does that, people here generally go nuts, but when it's done with a rock (something likely even less appropriate for such treatment) people support a completely unwritten EULA. I can't understand it.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein

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