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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!

  • 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?
  • 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.
  • He deserved it, and most of us would have done the same thing.

    Ummm, NO.

    The camera belongs in a museum.
  • njt
    the moon? what the hell happened to mars?
  • dwave
    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.
  • fb39ca4
    I dunno why this crap is here. Should be in tabloid magazines.
  • TheCapulet
    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.
  • Perhaps they want to get their hands back on the camera as it may fall into the possession of someone who could prove that it could never have worked on the moon anyway, but was fine in the mock-up lunar landscape they fooled everybody with ;-)
  • alidan
    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.