Astronaut Harrison Schmitt uses an adjustable sampling scoop to retrieve lunar samples during the Apollo 17 mission
16 June, 2018, 00:04
A woman claiming to own a vial of moon dust-gifted to her as a child by Neil Armstrong-is preemptively suing NASA for possession.
Private ownership of lunar material is a contentious legal issue in the US.
If the initial findings are replicated, the vial would be extremely valuable but legally hazardous to sell.
That said, now she has chose to establish the legality of what is rightfully hers, Christopher McHugh, Cicco's attorney told the Post. "I didn't want that to happen to Laura". The Apollo astronauts brought a whole bunch of lunar material back with them but virtually none of that is in the hands of the general public. NASA has yet to respond as of this posting, but the lawsuit was recently served and, as McHugh told Gizmodo, the space agency has 60 days to respond. As some tests suggest a lunar origin and some did not, the expert noted that it might be a mixture of dust from Earth and the moon.
Armstrong was a friend of Laura's father back in the 1970s.
Along with the dust, Armstrong also gave her a note which read, "To Laura Ann Murray - Best of luck - Neal Armstrong Apollo 11". Armstrong and Tom Murray, who spent much of his career flying politicians and dignitaries, were both members of the Quiet Birdmen, a secretive club of male pilots, Cicco said.
There is no evidence former Kansas resident Laura Cicco, née Murray, was even on NASA's radar before she filed suit early this month. According to court documents, her family indeed lived in Cincinnati when the first man on the moon was a teacher at the University there.
Decades later, she rediscovered the vial of pale grey dust in her parent's belongings.
Mr McHugh says the 2012 law created a "loophole" for lunar material that this case would attempt to close. "Lunar material is not contraband", McHugh wrote. "She is the rightful and legal owner". "I am speculating, but it may be possible that some dust from the earth became mingled with this likely lunar sample".
Cicco's lawsuit cited another case where NASA seized lunar mementoes from an elderly California woman which was gifted to her by her late husband and an Apollo programme engineer.
Laura Murray Cicco isn't the only private citizen to have sued NASA over items from previous moon mission in their possession. She and her second husband were allegedly lured to a Denny's restaurant by an informant posing as a broker, only for them to be arrested and questioned by federal agents for the next two hours.
In 2016, McHugh represented another local woman fighting for control over a NASA bag used to collect lunar samples.
We can use the photos which are from an extremely high-resolution camera which is aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and it orbits the moon, and the scientists have determined that as the astronauts have walked or drove on the moon and it has disturbed the anorthosite lunar soil.
Of the 270 lunar samples given as gifts by the United States to foreign governments, about 150 are missing and many are presumed to have been sold on the black market. He hopes that by asking for a federal jury trial, the matter of whether or not private citizens may own lunar material will be decided once and for all.
Last week, Cicco sued NASA to make sure that she can keep what is "rightfully" hers. Her attorney said it's been kept for safekeeping.
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