Please, NASA, don’t take my moon dust away

14 June, 2018, 11:16 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Moon Dust

How did she acquire the moon dust?


The question of who owns the moon is at the center of a new lawsuit filed against NASA by a woman who wants to keep a vial of lunar dust gifted to her by astronaut Neil Armstrong. 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.

A Tennessee woman is suing NASA over a vial of alleged moon dust. McHugh told Gizmodo in an email that he hasn't yet heard from NASA, "but they were just served, so I wouldn't expect to hear from them for a little while". An accompanying note from Armstrong says, "To Laura Ann Murray - Best of Luck - Neil Armstrong Apollo 11".

Last week, Cicco sued Nasa to make sure she can keep what is "rightfully" hers.

Cicco's father Tom Murray, who was a pilot with the US Army, spent a lot of time together with Armstrong.

Cicco was first given a tiny vial of moon dust when she was just ten years old, the Washington Post reports, along with a handwritten note from astronaut Neil Armstrong.

In terms of the material itself, tests performed at the behest of Cicco's attorney Christopher M. McHugh, by a chemist found that "it would be hard to rule out lunar origin".

It's common knowledge that mankind has caused the dramatic warming of the Earth - nobody besides conspiracy nuts and politicians looking for contributions from energy lobbyists actually bothers to dispute this anymore - but it looks like humans managed to extend our world-warming habits to the moon as well.

Citing the pending lawsuit, a Nasa spokeswoman said it would be "inappropriate" for the agency to comment.

In fact, scientists researching the dangers of moon dust weren't even able gain access to the real stuff in their experiments, instead using simulated lunar dust for a study they published last month.

One test found that the dust "mineralogy is consistent with the known composition of lunar regolith", according to the suit.

One of the most contentious cases occurred in 2011, when Joann Davis, the widow of a former Nasa engineer, attempted to sell two Lucite paperweights given to her by her late husband - one containing a rice grain-sized piece of lunar rock, the other with a piece of the Apollo 11 heat shield. Davis was not charged, and she filed a suit against the agency in 2013.

Nasa's Office of the Inspector General launched a sting on Davis, who was then 74.

As for Cicco, her lawsuit is ongoing, and her vial of moon dust is being held in a safe location, according to the Post. A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, but in April 2017, an appeals court judge ruled against Nasa's criminal investigator, saying there was "no law enforcement interest" in detaining an elderly woman.

Davis later reached a US$100,000 settlement with the government, according to court records.

"Nasa has taken this position that all lunar material is government property", says Christopher McHugh, Ms Cicco's lawyer.

Mr McHugh says the 2012 law created a "loophole" for lunar material that this case would attempt to close. "Laura shouldn't be afraid that Nasa is going to come knocking on her door and barge in and try and take the vial".



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