NASA Sues Astronaut Over 40-year-old Camera

For most Americans, Edgar Mitchell is a hero. He piloted the lunar module "Antares" from Apollo 14 in 1971. He braved the cold void of space and became the sixth man to walk upon the surface of the moon. He faced a possible disintegration by plunging back through the Earth's atmosphere carrying samples from the orbiting satellite. Who cares if he kept one of NASA's cameras as a souvenir. He deserved it, and most of us would have done the same thing.

Evidently NASA cares. The space agency discovered that the British auction house Bonhams planned to sell the camera at an upcoming Space History Sale. According to Reuters, the item was labeled "Movie Camera from the Lunar Surface" and billed as one of two cameras from the lunar trip. The lot description also identified the camera as the property of pilot Edgar Mitchell and sported a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.

NASA wasn't happy.

In a lawsuit filed in Miami federal court on Wednesday, NASA alleges that Edgar Mitchell illegally possessed the camera and attempted to sell it for profit. "All equipment and property used during NASA operations remains the property of NASA unless explicitly released or transferred to another party," the NASA suit said, adding that it had no record of the camera being given to Mitchell whatsoever.

Is it a case of misplaced paperwork? After all, it's been 40 years since Mitchell returned from space. Mitchell's lawyer, Donald Jacobson, disputes the claim, saying that NASA management approved Mitchell's ownership of the camera right after he completed the lunar mission. "Objects from the lunar trips to the moon were ultimately mounted and then presented to the astronauts as a gift after they had helped NASA on a mission," Jacobson said.

NASA's lawsuit states that it made repeated attempts to contact Jacobson and Mitchell to return the camera, but received no response. Meanwhile, Bonhams removed the camera from the auction block when it caught wind of NASA's lawsuit, stating that the sale was "pending further discussion between NASA and the consignor." The camera was slated to be auctioned off in May.

NASA's lawsuit is asking the court to halt any further attempts to sell the camera, to order its return back to NASA, and to declare that the United States has "good, clean and exclusive title" to the camera. That said, NASA should spend less time and resources on a silly little camera, and more time on actually getting the USA back on the moon. Priorities!

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  • dread_cthulhu
    Yeah... why the heck would they care about a camera??? Even if it was stolen, it's 40 years after the fact! Isn't there a statute of limitation on this kind of thing? I think this is a waste of the court's time, and of our federal tax dollars... 40 years... come on people! Let's use a bit of common sense here! He probably just asked his mission commander, hey can I have this camera now that you guys have taken the film out, as a souvenir? And they said sure, we won't use it again anyway. And now that he's trying to make a couple bucks off of it, they get po'd because they're hurting for money. Bureaucrats! Who needs 'em?
  • stm1185
    So after 40 years of NASA not caring about it, Mitchell decides to auction it and suddenly its the property of NASA. That is quite a load of BS.

    If it did not belong to him then NASA should have seen to getting it back 40 YEARS AGO.
  • cookoy
    40 years ago: "you're our hero. we are forever grateful for the services you've rendered. how can we ever repay you"
    now: "no way you're selling that thing. give it back or else"
  • Other Comments
  • the_krasno
    Nasa has a better chance going back to the moon by allying itself with other space agencies, after all can the USA afford the space when there is recession back here?

    That said I think the camera should be auctioned and money raised should go to fund education. After all don't former astronauts collect a handsome pension?
  • Anonymous
    If Bush, Baker and Co basically donated weapons and high tech materoals through the CCC programs back in the 80's to Iraq then giving a 40 year old camera to Iran would not be such a bad
  • doive1231
    ReggieRay. These are the type of comments that give the USA a bad rep around the world. Can't support a decent guy as President because you don't like his colour and spread mistrust about people of other religions.

    As for the camera. If NASA say it's theirs and they didn't give it to Edgar Mitchell, then it's theirs.