Science

A woman asks a court to approve her ownership of moon dust

A woman asks a court to approve her ownership of moon dust

A woman has sued NASA to make sure that the USA space agency doesn't take back a piece of moon gifted to her by Neil Armstrong - the first person to walk on the lunar surface.

Cicco claims in her lawsuit, filed Wednesday (local time) in federal court, that the moon dust was a gift from Armstrong, who was friends with her father, a pilot for the US Army Air Corps during World War II and for the Federal Aviation Administration.

While NASA has been known to take suspected lunar material from private citizens, as noted by Laura Murray Cicco's lawyer, Christopher McHugh, there is no law that forbids private citizens from keeping materials believed to have come from previous trips to the moon. Laura Murray Cicco tells the Washington Post that Armstrong gifted her the vial along with a hand-written note decades ago when she was 10. It is not clear why she is bringing the lawsuit now, five years after she told the Kansas City Star that she found it in a wooden chest.

"At this point, it would be hard to rule out lunar origin", writes the scientist in his report, included as an exhibit to the suit.

The attorney said that he has seen cases against NASA over material from other planets, but this is the first case he is aware of concerning ownership of moon dust. On realising the error, NASA tried to reclaim the lunar artefact.

"Since there is a court case involving this, it would be inappropriate for NASA to comment", Kelly Humphries, a NASA spokesman, emailed Ars. "It is therefore essential that rigorous accountability and security procedures be followed by all persons who have access to lunar materials".




Court documents say that an expert acknowledged the possibility of the vial containing an actual sample of the moon's surface.

Ms Davis and her new husband met the "buyer" at a Denny's Restaurant, only to discover it was a sting operation lead by Nasa's Inspector General. "She is the rightful and legal owner".

While a proactive lawsuit against the agency might appear slightly paranoid for a small vial of alleged moon dust, it's not. She was questioned by armed guards for two hours. Instead, they used simulated lunar dust.

Cicco made a decision to sue based on the story of Joann Davis, who said her husband, an Apollo program engineer, had given her two paperweights that contained fragments of lunar material.

But Mr McHugh says that people like Ms Cicco who can prove they did not steal the material should be allowed to own it without interference from Nasa.


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