Hugh Pickens writes 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 (DAC) that was supposed to have been left in the lunar module (LM) during the Apollo 14 mission. 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 brought against him. 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. "It's utter nonsense. It's just a tempest in a teapot.""
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