Woman Preemptively Sues NASA to Keep Her Treasure

Owner of presumed lunar material says space agency has history of seizing such items
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2018 4:08 PM CDT
Updated Jun 14, 2018 1:00 AM CDT
Woman Preemptively Sues NASA to Keep Her Treasure

Call it one small step for lunar dust owners. A Tennessee woman is suing NASA preemptively to keep a vial of what she believes is moon dust that was given to the family by Neil Armstrong. Filed in federal court, the suit is an attempt to prevent NASA—which says private citizens can't own lunar rocks or dust, though there is no law against it—from seizing the vial. An expert tested the dust and concluded it "may have originated from lunar regolith," reports Cincinnati.com. 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. She found the vial five years ago while going through her parents' belongings. Cicco says that Armstrong and her father were both members of a secret society of male pilots and were friends, per Fortune. The note, which has been authenticated, reads: "To Laura Ann Murray, Best of Luck—Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11."

Cicco is filing the suit because NASA has in the past seized suspected moon dust. When an elderly widow in California asked NASA to help her find a buyer for two paperweights containing tiny fragments of alleged moon rock that she says were given to her late husband by Armstrong, NASA confronted and aggressively detained and questioned the woman in a sting operation. The woman was not charged, and she sued the agency in 2013 for wrongful seizure, wrongful detention, and other violations of her rights. Cicco's suit is aimed at avoiding that scenario. NASA may view lunar material in private hands as stolen property, but Cicco's attorney disagrees, telling the Post, "Laura shouldn't be afraid that NASA is going to come knocking on her door and barge in and try and take the vial." (In other moon-related news, Buzz Aldrin's moonwalk cost him $33.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.