Woman sues NASA for ownership over moon dust vial memento

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

Laura Murray Cicco, a generational recipient of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong’s moon dust vial, filed a lawsuit to the U.S. District Court of Kansas on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Cicco has declared that the moon dust belongs to her under the U.S. Declaratory Judgement Act. Contrariwise, NASA has historically asserted that anything taken during a lunar mission belongs to the agency.

In the 2007 Lunar Sample Allocation Guidebook, NASA asserts: “NASA policies define lunar samples as a limited national resource, and future heritage, and requires that samples be released only for approved applications in research, education, and public display… Lunar samples are the property of the United States Government, and it is NASA’s policy that lunar sample materials will be used only for authorized purposes.”

While the 1967 Outer Space Treaty declares that major spacefaring nations cannot claim celestial bodies as national territory, claiming that lunar samples taken by NASA belong to NASA is within the confines of that treaty. Frans von der Dunk, J.D., a professor of space law at the Nebraska College of Law, tells Inverse that taking small quantities of material for scientific purposes is “widely acknowledged as legitimate.”

“That is why NASA, ‘on behalf of the United States,’ can claim ownership over the moon rocks and other small quantities of materials brought back by the various Apollo astronauts,” von der Dunk explains.

Notably, six space flights resulted in 2,200 samples from different Moon sites. As of 2018, nearly 400 samples are distributed around the world for research and teaching projects.