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NASA The Courts Science

NASA Sues Apollo Astronaut To Return Moon Camera 395

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the thanks-for-exploring-space-for-us dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The US government has brought a lawsuit against astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, after discovering that Mitchell had approached a NY auction house trying to sell a 16-millimeter data acquisition camera that was supposed to have been left in the lunar module. Mitchell argues that too many years have gone by for the government to pursue the camera as stolen and besides, it was given to the now 80-year-old moonwalker as a gift in line with NASA's then-policies governing spent equipment. However, the government contends it has no record of the camera being given to Mitchell who elected to remove it from the lunar module before parting ways with the spacecraft and returning to Earth, and the judge has ruled that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations denying Mitchell's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The Apollo 14 astronauts were not the only crewmates to salvage parts of their lunar module as mementos: Astronauts aboard Apollo 12 and Apollo 15 ripped off parts of their moonwalking suits' life support backpacks before they were discarded onto the lunar surface. But what makes Mitchell's case different is that other astronauts asked their bosses before each mission for permission and provided a list of items they planned to keep while apparently Mitchell didn't. 'They give me a list of things they're going to bring back,' said Deke Slayton, head of NASA's astronaut corps, who died in 1993. 'I give it to the program office and they bring 'em back.' For his part, Mitchell does not seem ready to give up the camera as the case prepares to go to trial next year."
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NASA Sues Apollo Astronaut To Return Moon Camera

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  • Oh boy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:12PM (#37692388) Journal

    The conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this one...

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      The conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this one...

      Nevermind that, if violating an order, by taking the camera back with them had been sufficient to affect the launch from the Moon and created an Apollo 13 like crisis (or even killed the astronauts) would it be OK? This isn't so much of a Space Cowboy as a Space Rustler.

      Still gotta admire his Space Gumption!

      • Re:Oh boy... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:59PM (#37693100)

        Nevermind that, if violating an order, by taking the camera back with them had been sufficient to affect the launch from the Moon and created an Apollo 13 like crisis (or even killed the astronauts) would it be OK?

        Apollo astronauts weren't retards. There was a significant margin in return mass and no chance that a 16mm camera would take them over that margin unless they were already in 'an Apollo 13 like crisis'.

        Heck, it's not like they weighed every moon rock before the return trip to make sure they didn't have too many.

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:13PM (#37692404)
    Did I just read that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations?

    ..and here I thought the statute of limitations was specifically there to bind the government.
    • by Tsingi (870990)

      Did I just read that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations?

      ..and here I thought the statute of limitations was specifically there to bind the government.

      ROFL! You make a good point.

      I think the government just make laws up on the fly these days.

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Same here I know it also extends to civilians, but I have never heard the government say they are exempt.

    • by canajin56 (660655) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:43PM (#37692888)
      Yes, you read that. It was written by the submitter, not by the judge or by the lawyers. The judge said that the Federal government is not bound by State statues. And so even if in that particular state there's a law that says stolen property becomes the property of the possessor after X amount of time, these laws do not apply to Federal property. But that's not as nice of an anti-government soundbite, so obviously some words had to be excised.
      • by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:58PM (#37693086) Journal

        Well, let's consider the Federal Statute of limitations.

        This page [federalcriminallawyer.us] has a summary.

        The basic Fed statute of limitations is 5 years [cornell.edu].

        There are exceptions. Unless it's a capital offense or child sexual abuse, or "continuing and uninterrupted offenses" (fugitive from the law, possession of counterfeit money, etc.) the maximum appears to be 10 years.

        With one eye-catching exception:

        In cases of defrauding the United States, if the fraud was related to a contract, property, or other claim with the Department of Defense (eg, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Army) and the US is at war, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until after hostilities have ended. 18 USC 3287.

        So... all we need is for the government to assert that the camera was actually military property (by some tortured extension of the relationship between NASA and the DoD, or by the fact that Mitchell was a Navy Officer at the time of the offense), and that the United States has been at a continuous state of war since the time of the offense.

        Judging from how the government has been treating other civil rights, I could definitely imagine it arguing for that latter point. Haven't we been in a state of undeclared war since 1950 or something? I mean, we've always been at war with Eastasia. ALWAYS.

        Of course, IANAL, and this is all speculation. But there is a Federal Statute of Limitations, and it would take some kind of brass to just handwave it away.

      • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:30PM (#37693518)

        Hey, you don't get on the front page of slashdot without lots of bias. This crowd leans right/libertarian so you need to pander to them to keep the ads flowing.

        Before we start deifying Mitchell as some kind of anti-government hero and genius, I'd like to point out that he's deeply into ESP, the paranormal, remote viewing/healing, and other woo. He started something called the Institute for Noetic Sciences in the 1970s. He's essentially the opposite of James Randi. I love to see these charlatans exposed in other parts of their lives too. Turns out he's not only a Uri Geller-level bullshitter but also a common thief.

    • The government is bound by the statute of limitations when the government decides it should be bound by the statute of limitations.

    • by pyrr (1170465) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:53PM (#37693030)

      The statute of limitations doesn't apply. They're not prosecuting him for a crime.

      They're attempting to recover stolen property. Just because you stole something a really long time ago doesn't make it yours, free and clear. That's why the government can repossess moon rocks, no matter whose hands they passed through over the years. The odds of most stolen property after years and passing through many hands is remote, most people don't care enough to pursue their stuff that long...but if someone shows up one day, claiming to possess something he stole and using the people he stole it from as being the provenance that gives it all its value (the camera would be worth what, $100 tops as an obsolete scientific curiosity had it not gone to the moon?), I think the US Government is well within its rights to demand return of its property.

      • by Yakasha (42321) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:26PM (#37693480) Homepage

        I think the US Government is well within its rights to demand return of its property.

        They're suing to get back their trash. The camera was a part of the lunar module which was ditched half-way off the moon, fell back to the moon, and turned into a pile of squished metal.

        Seriously its like suing an 80 year old homeless guy for stealing a half-eaten hamburger out of your trash-can.

        • by Plunky (929104)

          Seriously its like suing an 80 year old homeless guy for stealing a half-eaten hamburger out of your trash-can.

          Not to mention, this tramp is trying to sell that half-eaten hamburger and you just spent more money calling your lawyers than he could possibly get for it. If you really want it, offer to buy it back and save us all a penny!

        • by pyrr (1170465) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:46PM (#37693700)

          It would set a very bad precedent if they allowed a US employee to violate the rules. I doubt the camera weighed all that much, but I'll go with the same argument that holds that it's unethical to take anything from a site, "What if everyone took a (rock, artifact, fossil, etc.)?", which my folks rightly used early and often. In this case, astronauts looting things isn't likely going to deprive science or other sightseers of knowledge or the experience, but NASA has very strict rules for very good reasons.

          Astronauts are apparently allowed a small box for mementos to take into space and return with (I learned this on Pawn Stars when someone brought in a moon mission patch, photo, and autograph display). Nothing more without authorization. What if all the other members of the moon landing crew also decided to smuggle crap, and the module wound up being overweight? That could've endangered the lives of the crew. Why should Edgar's alleged bad behavior allow him to benefit in such a way that all the other moon astronauts didn't, because they behaved themselves?

        • by DavidTC (10147)

          Not only that, but it's like suing someone from stealing a half-eaten hamburger from your trash can in international waters.

          That's a weird legal theory there.

          I'm pretty certain that, legally, as far as anyone can tell, every single thing on the moon right now is 'abandoned property' that could be salvages by anyone, just like if you run across an empty lifeboat drifting in the middle of the ocean.

          But I guess the camera was never technically 'abandoned', so this is closer to: Employer told employee to tra

      • ...Nazi plunder [wikipedia.org]. Almost 60 years after the war ended, the original owners still have a right of recovery.

        What, too Godwin?
    • by D'Sphitz (699604)
      Not to mention, we can't sue the government but apparently the government can sue us.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      George W. Bush [cnn.com], Barrack Obama [nytimes.com], and the U.S. Senate [dslreports.com] have all made it plainly clear that the government no longer wants to or thinks they have to abide by the constitution. Some folks are trying to disagree but.... Anyway, like any government bureaucracy, after it has been around a while it tends to create its own group mind, and usually that group mind tends to forget or disregard annoying things like constitutional rights or just plainly doing the right thing. After all, these annoyances just get in the way
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:14PM (#37692430)

    'They give me a list of things they're going to bring back,' said Deke Slayton, head of NASA's astronaut corps, who died in 1993.

    A guy who died 18 years ago is the head of NASA's astronaut corps? That explains a lot.

    Should we refer to it as the astronaut "corpse" then?

  • by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:14PM (#37692440)

    "...government is not bound by..."

    This pretty much explains how we got to where we are today.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:16PM (#37692450) Homepage

    Where we shit on our heros at a moments notice over really dumb things.

    • I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Mitchell an "American Hero" (TM).

      Yes, he walked on the moon and that puts him in very rare company. However, I think he was a bit of a loon. I think NASA may still be bothered by the whole unauthorized ESP experiments that took place on the return trip. That kind of thing is definitely "not in line with NASA expectations"

    • I'm torn on this. On one hand, he is a hero. On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property. It probably would have slipped under the radar except he attempted to profit off it. Basically he went about this the wrong way. Also anyone who has, and ever will work with any governmental agency will tell you, GET IT IN WRITING with hand signatures. Hearsay doesn't mean diddly-squat to them.

      • by jesseck (942036) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:43PM (#37692884)

        On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property.

        Government property that was meant to remain abandoned on the Moon. What expectation did the Government have they would recover it?

      • by jd (1658)

        Yeeeeees, but if it was meant to be left on the lander, then by now it would have been destroyed or badly damaged had he done nothing. This act - regardless of the motive or the legality - has actually preserved an element of history that wouldn't otherwise exist. (Americans claim they don't have much history, but the reality is that Americans have had vast amounts of the stuff but it keeps getting destroyed for one reason or another.)

        Frankly, I don't care who wins this battle. We win if the camera ends up

        • by arth1 (260657)

          Yeeeeees, but if it was meant to be left on the lander, then by now it would have been destroyed or badly damaged had he done nothing. This act - regardless of the motive or the legality - has actually preserved an element of history that wouldn't otherwise exist.

          True, and I think he should get to keep it if he pays the shipping costs. What was the total payload, and how big a fraction was this - then multiply with the total costs of the return, and adjust for inflation.

          Then revoke his Presidental Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian award possible, and one that liars don't deserve. Unless he's already sold that too...

      • Not only would it have "slipped under the radar", it was on the government books as "expended". According to official records it was left on the moon with no intention of ever recovering it. If this was an item that was supposed to be brought back to the earth as part of the mission, I would say that the government has a point, even if all they would have done with it is stick it in a box in a warehouse somewhere. However, until he tried to sell it, the government thought it was gone forever.
        • Not only would it have "slipped under the radar", it was on the government books as "expended". According to official records it was left on the moon with no intention of ever recovering it. If this was an item that was supposed to be brought back to the earth as part of the mission, I would say that the government has a point, even if all they would have done with it is stick it in a box in a warehouse somewhere. However, until he tried to sell it, the government thought it was gone forever.

          It wouldn't have "slipped under the radar". NASA must have known about this camera all along. When astronauts returned from the moon, they were kept in quarantine for 21 days. Apparently [time.com], the astronauts seal themselves in bio-hazard suits before getting out of the command module. He would have had to have kept the camera with him, or it would have had to have been separately quarantined/decontaminated and returned to him. Now, you can't hide a camera the size of a brick in a bio-hazard suit, nor could y

      • I'm torn on this. On one hand, he is a hero. On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property.

        On the gripping hand, it would have been thrown out as trash.

    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:54PM (#37693860)

      This hero was doing just fine until he wanted to make some money at Sothebys.

      Possessing a piece of American history, even if you might not technically be entitled, is one thing. But selling a piece of American history, for profit, to the highest bidder, is something very different.

  • the government is not bound by the statute of limitations

    Funny, IANAL but isn't that exactly what a statute of limitations DOES? Puts time limits on the government being able to go after you for anything from petty theft to capital murder.

    Also it kinda reminds me of this case [liveleak.com], where a judge ruled that the government is "immune to lawsuits when property is in custody of law enforcement.".

    So it looks like the odds are pretty stacked in favor of the government. Tell yourself exactly how "free" you are, nowadays.

    • Funny, IANAL but isn't that exactly what a statute of limitations DOES? Puts time limits on the government being able to go after you for anything from petty theft to capital murder.

      Sorry to disappoint you, but murder is not subject to a statute of limitations in any jurisdiction, even where you live.

  • by johnthorensen (539527) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:22PM (#37692544)

    Seems like a silly choice if you ask me. Especially when the guy is 80-years-old and a national hero. Moon rocks, I understand - they're in limited supply and of real research value. A camera? C'mon.

    As a sidenote, Space is about the only topic outside of friends and family that can still bring a tear to this grown man's eye. For me, it's the last romantic pursuit of mankind, and one which I treat with the utmost reverence. It's a shame that it's so wrapped up in politics.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:23PM (#37692576)
    How retarded they are mad at him for not leaving it on the moon. So instead of it sitting on the moon collecting space dust it's on earth and he wants to sell it, big deal? At some point it has to simply not be worth your time to bother with. It's not like there is some sort of statement you're trying to make because we aren't ever sending anyone back to the moon again. So no one will ever be able to repeat his 'crime' of bringing back moon garbage. I swear bureaucratic astound me at how they love to enforce trivial things.
    • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:44PM (#37692902)
      I am just guessing but I expect its not about possessing the "discarded" gear, rather its about trying to profit from it. If it had been passed on to his kids/grandkids or put in a museum for display I doubt the government would have cared.
    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      This isn't even about taking stuff that was supposed to be left on the moon. It seems like they were angry that he didn't leave it in the lunar module; hence, if all went according to plan, the camera would have disintegrated with the lunar module during Earth re-entry. The government response to this sounds like the sort of bureaucratic uptightness normally reserved for the military.

  • C'mon NASA... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:24PM (#37692578)
    ...it's stories like these that make people look at you and say "Boy, I sure am glad the government cut their funding!"
  • the judge has ruled that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations

    What good is the statute of limitations if the courts are going to arbitrarily ignore it? By what logic is the judge ignoring the law?

    • by idontgno (624372)

      By what logic is the judge ignoring the law?

      By the logic of "It makes going after the Bad Guys* tougher!"

      *"Bad Guys" is whomever the government says at the moment. Having to designate "Bad Guys" and stick to that designation also makes going after the Bad Guys harder.

      This logic has the basic underpinnings of one of my 5-year-old twins yelling "That's not fair!" because I give both of the twins exactly and scrupulously the same treatment, but he wants favorable treatment. (For instance, both kids getting e

    • by jd (1658)

      Since the crime took place on the moon, does the judge even have jurisdiction?

  • by rcb1974 (654474) <richardballantyneNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:27PM (#37692624) Homepage
    This astronaut risks his life to go to the moon, and now the government isn't even letting him keep a little piece of garbage (essentially, that is what it is) that he brought back as a memento. How incredibly lame.
    • by Kenja (541830)
      He's not trying to keep it, he's trying to sell it.
      • by geekmux (1040042)

        He's not trying to keep it, he's trying to sell it.

        And unless that ancient piece of hardware is going to command a new multi-billion dollar budget for NASA at auction, NASA should give a shit about this why?

        At auction, this thing probably won't even fetch enough to pay for a NASA toilet seat, but could bring significant benefit to the seller(and buyer for that matter), not to mention perhaps getting some good press out of it. Instead, NASA decided to take a shit on it and call out a national hero. Nice, real nice.

        NASA, you embarrassed a Nation today. Lea

        • by NiteShaed (315799) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:53PM (#37693850)

          There's probably something to be said though about the fairness of letting him profit while the astronauts who didn't bring things back to sell don't. Assuming he wasn't authorized to take it (he claims otherwise, but for the moment assume NASA is right), then it's kind of a slap in the face to all the others who played by the rules and didn't just grab whatever they could carry and bring it back as well. I'd kinda like to see what other astronauts have to say about this actually....

    • by pyrr (1170465)

      As stated in the article, astronauts had to receive explicit permission for what they were bringing back. That permission is apparently documented for all the other moonwalkers, who pulled-off pieces of their discarded suits as mementos, and also for small boxes of crap they were authorized to bring along (such as pennants and patches). Why should the rules that applied to all the others not apply to him, simply because he decided not to obey them?

      I'm also curious to know if such a request would've been h

  • crime on the moon? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jjeffries (17675) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:27PM (#37692628)

    Since the camera was meant to be left there, this alleged crime would have occurred on the moon. Does this mean that the US federal government has jurisdiction on the moon?

    • Since the camera was meant to be left there, this alleged crime would have occurred on the moon. Does this mean that the US federal government has jurisdiction on the moon?

      Interesting point. Maybe if the moon was exactly above the USA when it happened? How many miles up is US jurisdiction? What about satellites that fly above many countries?

      On the other hand, there may be a principle that a deed falls under the jurisdiction of the place where it took effect. If he had stolen the camera from his fellow astronaut on the moon, that would have happened on the moon and not be under US jurisdiction. Same as the US can't throw you into jail if you steal jewellery in Germany and t

      • IANAL but my understanding is that vessels at sea are under the legal jurisdiction of the country whose flag they fly. Warships even remain the territory of their country after being sunk. I'd expect spacecraft would operate under similar rules, especially government owned spacecraft.
      • by snowgirl (978879)

        On the other hand, there may be a principle that a deed falls under the jurisdiction of the place where it took effect. If he had stolen the camera from his fellow astronaut on the moon, that would have happened on the moon and not be under US jurisdiction. Same as the US can't throw you into jail if you steal jewellery in Germany and take it into the USA (as long as you do everything strictly by the book when you import the stolen goods). Even if you stole from an American. But it may be that he was legally allowed to bring the camera back to earth, but was obliged to hand it back to the NASA. In that case, the action would have happened on earth.

        Just because you leave the US, does not mean that the US has let go of all jurisdiction over you. The US federal law has a provision that having sex with a person who is underage (specific age left as problem for reader) is a crime, even if it is outside of US jurisdiction. "How can they do that?" Well, as a US citizen, it's likely that you will come back to the US at some point. You then return to US jurisdiction, and they prosecute you for the crime. "But the crime didn't happen in the US" doesn't matter,

    • Since the camera was abandoned on the moon, it should have been fair game.
    • by Scutter (18425)

      Up above the clouds, there is no law.

      S K Y C R I M E !!!

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Since the camera was meant to be left there, this alleged crime would have occurred on the moon. Does this mean that the US federal government has jurisdiction on the moon?

      That's easy enough to find out. See who's paying the property taxes on the real estate containing the movie set where the moon landing was filmed...jurisdiction issue solved!

  • Abandoned property (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quila (201335) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:30PM (#37692680)

    You'd think anything purposely designated to be left on the Moon is about as abandoned as property can get.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      You'd think anything purposely designated to be left on the Moon is about as abandoned as property can get.

      And in internationally accepted practice, such as naval salvage, you're entitled to it.

      What do you suppose will happen, though, if some unethical weasel goes to the moon, gloms onto some of the artifacts and brings them back?

      Uh, huh. Gummint suddenly revises the rules, but saying there's no rule and then takes the unethical weasel to court. Two wrongs, sorta fing.

      • First resolve the issue of getting the unethical weasel to the moon to begin with; then we can talk about salvage rights.
    • by melikamp (631205)
      It's funny, but IMHO not true. Barring a cataclysmic event, Moon will surely be colonized within a few millenniums, and all of that trash will have tremendous historical value. I don't see how anyone but NASA has a legitimate claim to it, and I would much rather see these items in a public museum than locked up in some collector's private stash.
    • by geekmux (1040042)

      You'd think anything purposely designated to be left on the Moon is about as abandoned as property can get.

      Absolutely.

      Since NASA still wants to hold value against their "abandoned" property by initiating this lawsuit, perhaps he should counter with a lawsuit forcing NASA to either tend to the "valuable" garbage, or force them to sign a document stating that it IS truly abandoned, and therefore dismissing this lawsuit altogether.

      Of course, I suspect another army of lawyers will want to stand up and argue jurisdiction rights related to abandonment laws on the moon, carrying this pointless lawsuit out several more

    • by jd (1658)

      The only time abandoned property within international territory is off-limits is when it's a war grave. So unless the government isn't telling us something, salvage rights would seem to apply. Now, if he didn't declare it on the customs form, he might owe the government import duties, but that's about it.

      • The only time abandoned property within international territory is off-limits is when it's a war grave. So unless the government isn't telling us something, salvage rights would seem to apply.

        Salvage law does apply here - and in this case, salvage law states that government property remains government property forever unless the government in question explicitly and specifically renounces it's rights over the property. (Which NASA has never done for the hardware in question.) That's why the US Navy took c

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:02PM (#37693140)
      It may not be abandoned in a legal sense. For example it is my understanding that a naval vessel remains property of the navy until stricken from the navy's registry. Also it may not be abandoned in the scientific sense either. A future mission may visit the site to study the effect of long term exposure on various materials. IIRC things like this have already been done, Apollo 12 landed near a robotic Surveyor probe and recovered some parts for such a purpose. The lander may be expended not abandoned?
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:32PM (#37692706) Journal
    The spacecraft they were flying were all very fragile machines. Please don't imagine a tiny pocket camera. It is likely to be quite heavy. Further with chemicals and batteries etc, there are other hazards too. The mission they were undertaking was extremely dangerous and risky and nothing should have been done with deliberation, forethought and thorough review of every contingency. To randomly rip off pieces from spacecraft and smuggle it aboard jeopardizes the mission, the vehicle and the crew.

    It is probably not as stupid as that test pilot with a broken foot hiding the fact from the Air Force in a glory seeking attempt to be the first to break the sound barrier. That is the best one can say about the incident.

    • You make a good point. I believe they needed to know the exact weight of the various craft to calculate required thrust and fuel supply. If the camera weighed enough that could have thrown off their calculations.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        No he didn't.
        The calculations are not that touchy. Apollo has this thing called a computer. It used things called sensors that would lock on stars to update its position. They could carry x amount of samples back but the had a safety factor along with extra fuel for maneuvering the CSM. It wasn't down to the gram folks or even the KG.

  • Wait until they get to the Zapruder film from the moon.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:37PM (#37692784) Homepage
    Honestly, I'm not that surprised that of all the astronauts who walked on the moon that this would be an issue with Edgar Mitchell. He's always been a bit of an odd ball/loose cannon. He's a strong believer in psychics and thinks that UFOs are actually visiting aliens. He also claims to have been involved in remote healing and ESP. He founded the very New Agey Institute for Noetic Sciences http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Noetic_Sciences [wikipedia.org] (some may remember them for getting some degree of reference in Dan Brown's last book.) A lot of NASA has had very little patience with him. It isn't surprising that he'd both have neglected to do something like tell the rest of NASA what he was taking back and that he would have annoyed them enough that they would not end up finding an amicable resolution of the issue.
    • He's always been a bit of an odd ball/loose cannon. He's a strong believer in psychics and thinks that UFOs are actually visiting aliens. He also claims to have been involved in remote healing and ESP. He founded the very New Agey Institute for Noetic Sciences (some may remember them for getting some degree of reference in Dan Brown's last book.) A lot of NASA has had very little patience with him.

      But what if he's right?

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:41PM (#37692868)
    The big question is: How did he get it through quarantine on his return 40 years ago? Like nobody noticed that he had this movie camera in his pocket at the time and said, "Hey Edgar, is that a camera in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
    • That's probably his basis for believing might be his. Someone said to him "What's this", and he said, "A camera from the moon.", then they said "Ok, keep it"

      He didn't get it in writing, nor, I imagine, did he verify that the person who said "Keep it", had the authority to allow him to keep it.
  • One other ex-astronaut recently complained that NASA pulled his visitors badge for NASA Houston. There used to be a policy that astronauts could visit the old place, but no longer. NASA still has about 60 active astronauts on the payroll, which is about 40 more than they need. They haven't officially announced layoffs, but there is pressure to quit or retire.

  • If they let this guy keep the camera then they're setting a bad precedent. It would mean that all future astronauts on US manned lunar missions would... oh wait... never mind. Precedent averted due to lack of manned lunar missions.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:50PM (#37692986)
    If NASA do want this camera, they should be duty bound to follow through and restore it to the place they think it should be: on the Moon. If they're not willing to do that, and just want to piss the guy off, they don't have the moral authority to claim ownership.

    Either it goes back to it's rightful resting place, or the guy who brought it back gets to keep it. Choose.

  • It should be treated as marine salvage. I'm no expert at marine salvage law, so I don't know what that entails, but the fact that it took place on the moon should make no difference.

  • by Translation Error (1176675) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:56PM (#37693062)
    I'm sure they'll come to a fair and reasonable agreement that all charges will be dropped if he simply puts the camera back where he found it.
  • by erice (13380) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @02:45PM (#37693688) Homepage

    TFA mentions other souvenirs brought back by astronauts. They were not sued, which was attributed to them asking permission first. But did they try to sell their souvenirs? I think that is the critical difference. NASA doesn't have a problem with one of their Moon heroes owning a relic from his famous mission. They don't want a market in questionable NASA artifacts encouraging a black market in stolen artifacts.

  • by flimflammer (956759) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @06:54PM (#37696482)

    It was a part that was created for the purpose of being destroyed. So he took it without asking his boss which seems to be the norm then. Is this a case of "If I can't have it no one can"? It's an old outdated relic that serves no useful purpose aside from being some sort of space flight museum piece.

    Let the guy keep/sell it. Jesus. Do we really need to waste money on a trial for this? NASA should be spending its money to further space projects, not going after people over an item destined for destruction they saved 40 years ago as a memento.

2.4 statute miles of surgical tubing at Yale U. = 1 I.V.League

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