back to article Woman sues NASA for ownership of vial of space dust

A woman has sued NASA, claiming to be the rightful owner of a small vial of moon dust supposedly given to her by Neil Armstrong. The lawsuit was filed under the US District Court of Kansas last week by Laura Murray Cicco. She claims that when she was ten, her mother handed her a glass vial with a rubber stopper containing …

  1. ShelLuser

    So... uhm...

    NASA owns the moon then? Sounds pretty arrogant to me.

  2. Andrew Newstead

    Re: So... uhm...

    No, they are only claiming ownership of the materials that they spent the money on to retrieve and bring back to Earth. If you go and collect your own samples then that is a different matter.

  3. bexley

    no

    no they dont own the moon. I don´t own the desert in Jordan either but the small vial of purple sand that I brought back with me is mine.

    I paid for the transport to get there, I went out a collected it and I brought it home.

    I don´t really understand why NASA are being so up tight about this though, maybe to discourage further resales of things that they made possible to collect and would prefer to keep for their own research or display.

    It will make for a great provenance story at auction if she gets this back though.

  4. Roland6 Silver badge

    Re: So... uhm...

    >If you go and collect your own samples then that is a different matter.

    Only if you also finance the trip.

  5. Andrew Newstead

    Re: So... uhm...

    That's the idea.

  6. sisk Silver badge

    Re: So... uhm...

    If you go and collect your own samples then that is a different matter.

    I'd say even by that measure this particular case is a bit muddy. Armstrong DID go and collect those samples and gave one to a friend's daughter. The argument could be made that NASA paid to get him there, but I think - just my opinion - that it'd be a hard sell to say he couldn't get something for himself while he was there in between all the samples he collected for NASA. And if he could get something for himself them he could also give it away.

  7. BillG Silver badge
    Boffin

    A Thriving Market of Counterfeits

    I don´t really understand why NASA are being so up tight about this though,

    Because if it was legal for someone to own lunar material with a thimble-full potentially worth a million dollars, a thriving market of counterfeits would spring up overnight which would quickly spiral out of control. It would include fake moon dust, fake rocks, fake experts, fake labs, fake lab results, and real murders.

  8. onefang

    Re: no

    "I don´t own the desert in Jordan either but the small vial of purple sand that I brought back with me is mine."

    I wonder where the line is drawn. Sure, collect a small vial of sand and it's yours, but several tonnes of sand is likely not yours to take.

  9. Gordon861

    Re: So... uhm...

    Not muddy at all.

    They went there with an aim to collect materials as part of the mission. As with most companies, if you produce something whilst doing your job the stuff you produce/collect belongs to them.

  10. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Re: So... uhm...

    Actually the Apollo program, like everything else at NASA, was funded by the US taxpayers, which in my view places moon dust clearly in the public domain.

    But even if you take the neoliberal view that everything should be privately owned, regardless of whether it was funded by leaching from the public purse, we're talking about a tiny sample of dust - where NASA already has a vast hoard of lunar material, collected decades ago, then accepted as a gift in good faith.

    NASA literally chasing every last speck of moon dust just seems like senseless greed, under the circumstances.

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Re: no

    I wouldnt bet on it - you may have collected it but did you have permission? I'd bet it counts as stolen.

  12. sisk Silver badge

    Re: So... uhm...

    Not muddy at all.

    They went there with an aim to collect materials as part of the mission. As with most companies, if you produce something whilst doing your job the stuff you produce/collect belongs to them.

    True, but things are a little different with jobs where you're on the job 24/7 for long periods of time. Think of it this way: if a soldier is on mission someplace exotic and takes a few seconds to collect some sand from the beach in a test tube as a souvenir in between doing other things, does the military own that vial of sand? Of course not. I don't really think that the fact that very few people have been to the moon and had that chance to grab a vial of moon dust changes the situation that much.

    He collected samples for NASA and took a few seconds to collect one for himself, as anyone else who has a job they can't leave at the end of the day would have been allowed to. Just because he was paid to go there doesn't mean every speck of everything he brought back automatically has to be the property of his employer.

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: A Thriving Market of Counterfeits

    "Because if it was legal for someone to own lunar material with a thimble-full potentially worth a million dollars, a thriving market of counterfeits would spring up overnight which would quickly spiral out of control. It would include fake moon dust, fake rocks, fake experts, fake labs, fake lab results, and real murders."

    And as any fule know, the moon landings were fake too!

    On a slightly more serious note, even if Armstrong collected it as a personal memento, could there be freight charges involved? That was an expensive trip where every gramme added to the cost :-)

  14. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Re: So... uhm...

    Yes but no but....

    That might work with the grain of sand argument but it's a whole lot different if the soldier brings back a pouch of gold nuggets even if honestly collected. You betya that there would have been military regs about taking anything of value.

    Plus a whole sub-genre of war films wouldn't exist :)

  15. Fungus Bob Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: no

    "I wonder where the line is drawn."

    Where it is always drawn - in the sand...

  16. WarrenCrum

    Re: So... uhm...

    I did, I hired NASA to collect them for me.

  17. WarrenCrum

    Re: So... uhm...

    I am pretty certain that NASA didn’t pay for anything unless the astronauts got part time jobs mowing the lawn’s to fund the space shuttles.

    Jack ass.

  18. bxdanny

    Re: A Thriving Market of Counterfeits

    Both the lunar module and the service module burned up, as planned, during the trip back to Earth. No fuel could be recovered from their engines, so their was no marginal added cost for transporting those few extra grams of moon dust.

  19. Alan_Peery

    Re: So... uhm...

    Except with most companies, you have a work day, and if you go for a walk in the evening and find a pretty rock for your collection at home that doesn't become the company's rock.

  20. cosmogoblin

    Re: A Thriving Market of Counterfeits

    "could there be freight charges involved?"

    Reminds me of the towing invoice for Apollo 13

  21. onefang

    Re: A Thriving Market of Counterfeits

    "Reminds me of the towing invoice for Apollo 13"

    I think they are due a refund for "Charges for keeping this invoice confidential".

  22. JustJP

    Re: So... uhm...

    Whose tax dollars paid for NASA to go to the moon again?

  23. Monty Cantsin

    Re: So... uhm...

    "Actually the Apollo program, like everything else at NASA, was funded by the US taxpayers, which in my view places moon dust clearly in the public domain."

    NASA owing it would keep the mood dust in the public domain, since NASA's ownership is itself in the public domain.

    This woman owning it would place it in the private domain.

  24. remyzero

    Re: So... uhm...

    ...like American TAX PAYERS !

  25. remyzero

    Re: A Thriving Market of Counterfeits

    cuz it isn`t from the MOON, sweetie.....

  26. tempemeaty

    The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    NASA, for a long time now, has been pretty ruthless in taking back every bit of moon dust and rocks that were given to people. It's so ruthless and unnecessary that I can't help but wonder if they are hiding something.

  27. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    Yeah they don't want anyone finding out about the hidden NAZI Bunker on the Moon, with the Three Monoliths just down the hall, and to the left.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    We also shouldn't forget the fourth monolith, designed to be laid across the top of the other three, in order to form some kind of gate-like structure.

  29. A K Stiles Silver badge
    Joke

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    Three vertical, one horizontal across the top? Sounds like a wicket to me! Wonder where the bat and ball are?

  30. VinceH Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    Have you seen how many craters there are on the moon?

  31. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    "Three vertical, one horizontal across the top? Sounds like a wicket to me! Wonder where the bat and ball are?"

    Ah, an artifact from the Krikkit wars .

    I always knew that Hitchhikers guide the the galaxy was not a novel but a warning sucked in from the future from a wormhole created by to many biros and spare socks

  32. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    Probably also explains why the rest of the Galaxy wants nothing to do with us. besides being located in the unfashionable western end of said Galaxy. oh yeah we also like to though the term of Belgium 'round a lot too.*

    * Not much of a fan when it comes to censorship, but this was a case where the american version got it right.

  33. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    Three vertical, one horizontal across the top? Sounds like a wicket to me! Wonder where the bat and ball are?

    Fell into disuse after the whole thing was found to be impractical - play kept stopping for bad light for stretches of 14 days at a time.

  34. Chris G Silver badge

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    Hans. You do know that cricket has nothing to do with sport?

    It's an old British weather control system.

  35. steviebuk Silver badge

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    And you forgot to mention they don't want to admit Mr Spoon was left there.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    So, do mean that if you schedule a game then it rains at game time? That's a great way to ensure an area has sufficient ground water and it then appears that there must be a much greater number of cricket players here in the Province of New Brunswick, Canada than I would have thought.

  37. tapemonkey

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    Or all those alien bases Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin saw in 69

  38. tempemeaty
    Trollface

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    "Yeah they don't want anyone finding out about the hidden NAZI Bunker on the Moon, with the Three Monoliths just down the hall, and to the left."

    You forgot the "Tin Foil Hat" reference. ⎝(。◁゚)⎠ᕕ(ᐛ)ᕗ

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    "* Not much of a fan when it comes to censorship, but this was a case where the american version got it right."

    fully agreed! I remember bursting our laughing at that line when I first read the book. I was at an age where an F-bomb would have been inherently funny, but Belgium was so much funnier in context.

  40. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Re: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin saw in 69

    Saucy.

  41. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    It might have something to do with mineral rights. Not sure but I recall something from the 60's on this.

  42. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Re: Three Monoliths just down the hall,

    Are they called the Belgian Marbles?

  43. remyzero

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    EVERY TIME a sample is analyzed, it has turned out to be petrified wood, or some other Earthly material....kinda brings down the assumed value....

  44. Symon Silver badge
    Alien

    Re: The ongoing ruthless take backs.

    They obviously don't want us finding the WW2 bomber they've hidden up there.

    Full details documented here:-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_Sport#/media/File:Sunday_Sport.jpg

    Not long later...

    http://www.anorak.co.uk/wp-content/gallery/sunday-sport/bomberonmoonsundaysport1.jpg

  45. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    I suspect

    that some people around here might know about that.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One small vial of dust for mankind, one giant leap for lawyerkind.

  47. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    COPUOUS - 1962/1967

    Space is free for all nations to explore, and sovereign claims cannot be made. Space activities must be for the benefit of all nations and humans.

    Most major players have signed this.

    The Moon Agreement - 1979 - Article 11

    The moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind.

    The moon is not subject to national appropriation by any claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means

    Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become property of any State, international intergovernmental or non- governmental organization, national organization or non-governmental entity or of any natural person

    None of the majpr players have signed up, too busy looking at the profit !

  48. Velv Silver badge

    So two things:

    1. It says nothing about who pays to retrieve any part of the Moon

    2. Does this prevent any organisation or person in procession of some Moon from selling it?

  49. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Nice idealistic treaty.

    But I think the last couple of minutes from 'Iron Sky' is far more likely or possibly a re-run of the East India Company that became defacto state.

    Bottom line, possession is 9/10ths - 'If you can stop anyone taking it off you, it's yours'

  50. ravenviz Silver badge

    sovereign claims cannot be made

    Why did they put a flag on it then?

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