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Woman sues Nasa over ownership of moon dust vial

14 June 2018

How did she acquire the moon dust?


"When Laura was about 10 years old, her mother gave her a glass vial with a rubber stopper full of light grey dust, and one of her father's business cards", according to the lawsuit. Five years ago, after her parents had died, she found it while going through her parents' possessions.

The alleged moon dust, which remains in the transparent glass beaker about the size of a small finger is being kept in a secure location in Kansas, according to McHugh. 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".

On the back of the card was a personalized note: "To Laura Ann Murray - Best of luck - Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11".

At this point, Ms Cicco isn't sure what she will do with the vial if she's allowed to keep it, though it may be worth millions. 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.

The woman, Laura Murray Cicco, filed a lawsuit against the space agency last week preemptively - NASA hasn't come for her vial, but the agency has tried to seize lunar mementos in the past.

"There is no law against private persons owning lunar material". The proof is Armstrong's handwritten note, which has been authenticated by a handwriting expert, McHugh said.

While NASA has not made any efforts to confiscate Cicco's property, the space agency's longstanding position is that all lunar material belongs to the nation.

No, the astronauts who visited the moon didn't spew chemicals or anything of that sort, but they did travel across the lunar surface both by foot and by vehicle, and that alone was enough to make the moon warmer ... but only after they left. Another test found the sample's composition similar to "average crust of Earth".

Despite the varied findings, the expert wrote in his report that "it would be hard to rule out lunar origin" and that it's possible that some dust from Earth "mingled with this likely lunar sample".

There is no evidence former Kansas resident Laura Cicco, née Murray, was even on NASA's radar before she filed suit early this month.

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

According to the lawsuit, the two were friends. The couple sued in 2013, alleging wrongful search and seizure, false imprisonment, wrongful detention and other constitutional violations. A court ultimately decided that the government was not the rightful owner, and the artifact remains in private hands.

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

"The minute they found out what we thought it was they just said they don't want to mess with it because they don't want to get in trouble", says Mr Cicco.

"If you look at the Davis case, what Nasa is essentially saying is that lunar material in private hands is stolen property".

Woman sues Nasa over ownership of moon dust vial