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NASA Sues Astronaut Over 40-year-old Camera

By - Source: Reuters | B 53 comments
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Astronaut Edgar Mitchell is facing the wrath of NASA after trying to sell a camera he used on the moon back in 1971.

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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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    dread_cthulhu , July 2, 2011 2:32 PM
    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?
  • 13 Hide
    stm1185 , July 2, 2011 4:16 PM
    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.
  • 12 Hide
    cookoy , July 2, 2011 4:12 PM
    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
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  • -6 Hide
    the_krasno , July 2, 2011 12:24 PM
    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?
  • -7 Hide
    doive1231 , July 2, 2011 12:36 PM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    njt , July 2, 2011 1:09 PM
    the moon? what the hell happened to mars?
  • 9 Hide
    dwave , July 2, 2011 1:14 PM
    Stealing is Stealing:

    You don't know who the camera belongs to yet so don't judge till the facts are in. He claims NASA gave it to him. If that is the case then the stupid thing does not belong in a museum.
  • 4 Hide
    fb39ca4 , July 2, 2011 1:16 PM
    I dunno why this crap is here. Should be in tabloid magazines.
  • 8 Hide
    TheCapulet , July 2, 2011 1:32 PM
    doive1231As for the camera. If NASA say it's theirs and they didn't give it to Edgar Mitchell, then it's theirs.

    Those are my shoes! I don't remember giving them to you! Give them back now, or else. And, is that my shirt? That's it, you thief, I'll see you in court.
  • 8 Hide
    alidan , July 2, 2011 1:33 PM
    is it just me, or can you see someone loosing paperwork at the bureaucratic nightmare that is nasa?

    nasa has its head up their ass, for the most part. they p@#$ away tens of billions yearly when the private space program is being funded for under 500million total before profits come in.

    i can see them giving away the camera to the guy, after all its not really useful after it was on the moon than back to earth, just assuming that the optics are kind of messed up alone.
  • 7 Hide
    kristoffe , July 2, 2011 1:39 PM
    I think it's a mistake and he was given it. Verizon makes mistakes on my billing monthly it seems, nasa wouldn't have done the same? I think he deserves something for his journey and can sell it in his old age if he likes, why not? Also, would you condemn Johnny Depp for selling something from Nightmare on Elm Street or the more popular Pirates series if he was possibly given it and then new management forgot 40 years later?
  • -6 Hide
    shoelessinsight , July 2, 2011 1:42 PM
    Though I appreciate the news and enjoyed being informed on this topic, this article is saturated with writer opinion. If this were a blog article, or if it were labeled as an opinion piece, it would be no big deal, but I thought this was supposed to be a news article. The writer didn't even have the decency to at least be subtle about his opinion.

    As for the camera, if Edgar Mitchell can provide evidence and/or witnesses that NASA gifted that camera to him, then I hope that everyone involved has the decency to drop the issue at that point. But if no such evidence exists, then I don't blame NASA for pursuing this. While this may be one little camera, it is still a case of property theft (however innocent) and resale, and they don't want to encourage future employees to do the same.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , July 2, 2011 1:58 PM
    Big Brother
  • 9 Hide
    mcd023 , July 2, 2011 2:20 PM
    my guess is that back in the 70's, things weren't as ridiculous as they are now, so they were probably given as gifts without any paperwork because they all thought it was a good idea. Even if there was, where would they go to find it? One piece of paperwork amidst millions? I'd hate that job, but it still pays I guess. haha
  • 14 Hide
    dread_cthulhu , July 2, 2011 2:32 PM
    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?
  • -7 Hide
    kcorp2003 , July 2, 2011 3:03 PM
    i agree with NASA. it is their property and unless they give it to him. besides the technology is old but i wonder what NASA will do with it unless this camera has more potential and NASA is trying to cover up something. like a bigger lawsuit that they copied the technology from someone else. lol
  • 9 Hide
    GNCD , July 2, 2011 3:16 PM
    I want some $5 worth of socks...

    They should let the man keep the camera...40 years...cmon...
  • -6 Hide
    lradunovic77 , July 2, 2011 3:27 PM
    The reason is that Moon Landing never happened so anything which was part of it like this Camera cannot go to Public.
  • 2 Hide
    scrumworks , July 2, 2011 3:36 PM
    ReggieRaySince NASA's mission now is Muslim outreach, according to the Kenyan, maybe they can donate to Iran, I hear they are wanting to start a space program.


    lol of the day.
  • 12 Hide
    cookoy , July 2, 2011 4:12 PM
    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"
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