Too Much Free Time

Filed Under:
astronaut, camera, nasa

NASA Sues Astronaut, Claiming He Stole Space Camera... 40 Years Ago

from the laches,-anyone? dept

With the Space Shuttle program ending, it appears that NASA has some spare time on its hands... and it's using it to sue a former astronaut for trying to auction off a lunar movie camera that he claims he was given after becoming the sixth man to walk on the moon in 1971. Yes, he has had the camera for forty years, and it's just now that he was seeking to auction it off that NASA suddenly remembered it existed and is claiming that it owns it. Is there really no statute of limitations here? Or possibly a laches claim? Frankly, the whole thing just seems petty.

If you liked this post, you may also be interested in...

1.
A Guy, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 8:49am

If they claim to be the rightful owners, it can generally be reclaimed at any time they can lay their hands on it. Obviously, it is way past the statute of limitations for criminal liability.

2.
A Guy, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 8:50am

Re:

IANAL but that is my understanding of the law.

3.
Hothmonster, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:01am

Maybe they are afraid that camera has some footage were you can see the "moon's" rafters.

/tinfoil

4.
out_of_the_blue, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:07am

\$80,000 is not petty.

Always look at the money. -- Yes, I know the camera didn't cost that, but he's trying to auction it for that amount expected.

And in fact, the people of the US paid for it. IF he had permission to take it, then he had a co-conspirator is all. Two wrongs don't make a right.

5.
Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:17am

Re: \$80,000 is not petty.

Two wrongs can certainly make a right.

Example: the math problem is 1 + 5 but you make two mistakes when writing it down

1) you use 11 instead of 1
2) you use a (-) instead of a (+)

The result is 6, which is right despite your two wrongs

6.
Cynix, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:21am

The reason that NASA want that camera back so badly is because it contains footage that proves once and for all that the moon landings were faked.

No one has ever been to the moon.

7.
Chris Rhodes (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:23am

Re: \$80,000 is not petty.

And in fact, the people of the US paid for it. IF he had permission to take it, then he had a co-conspirator is all.

I assume you'll be sending in a SWAT team to take back every Medal of Honor ever awarded? I mean, those were paid for by the government too. Clearly, the presidents who gave them out were nothing more than "co-conspirators".

(In the future, reflect on what the voices in your head are saying before you transcribe it to the internet for all to see. Please!)

8.
A Guy, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:30am

Re: \$80,000 is not petty.

Good point. I will now go claim every gift ever given to a foreign government by our President or The State Department. Clearly, those ceremonial pens and flags were all stolen with our President/Secretary of State as a co-conspirator. I will also go to impoverished countries and take our food back. The legislature clearly conspired with them so they didn't die of starvation in a field. Fucking thieves, wanting to eat and live, how dare they!!!

9.
Gwiz (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:32am

Re: Re: \$80,000 is not petty.

Fucking thieves, wanting to eat and live, how dare they!!!

Foodtards!

10.
A Guy, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 9:33am

Re: Re: \$80,000 is not petty.

Awww, you beat me.

Are you going to sue me for infringing on your general idea of refuting idiocy?

11.
Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 10:05am

Re:

Actually .... we live on the moon and NASA does not want us to realize that we don't live on the Earth!

12.
Gwiz (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 10:18am

Re: Re:

Actually .... we live on the moon and NASA does not want us to realize that we don't live on the Earth!

Nah. We are all happily laboring along inside the Matrix and the moon was destroyed a century ago.

13.
The eejit (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 10:39am

Re: Re: Re:

Eh, Matrix, Schmatrix. I much prefer dreaming of eletric sheep, myself.

14.
Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 10:39am

\$80,000 for a 40 year old camera? I know full well that the gov't knows all about depreciation. My crappy cell phone that's 5 years old (or more) has better technology, and they're suing to get it back? Ridiculous!

15.
DannyB (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 11:00am

National Treasure

I think the issue is not the value of the camera but the fact that anything that went to the moon is a national treasure of the US and has historic importance. Just like digging up an ancient artifact in the middle east or elsewhere. The very reason the guy thinks he can auction it for so much is because of this value I speak of. If this were an otherwise identical camera that didn't go to the moon, do you think it would bring as much?

That camera was and is the property of NASA. Whoever "gave" it to the astronaut probably didn't have the authority to do so and did not understand the significance.

The camera belongs in a museum not in an auction.

Just like someone who innocently brings home an ancient artifact they dug up somewhere doesn't intend any harm, I don't think anyone had any intent to commit a crime here. Nonetheless, that camera is an artifact and will only increase in value as such over time.

16.
Beta (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 12:11pm

This line near the bottom throws the whole story into a different light:

"[Mitchell] did admit to the Post that NASA had, in the past, asked for the camera back. He believed the matter had been laid to rest."

17.
btr1701 (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 1:17pm

Re: National Treasure

> Whoever "gave" it to the astronaut probably
> didn't have the authority to do so and did not
> understand the significance.

This little 'fact' keeps getting repeated in this thread, but it's nothing but inaccurate speculation.

The *fact* is that various government officials are indeed empowered to make gifts of this sort and it's hardly beyond the bounds of reasonability that an astronaut could have been presented the camera as a gift for his service.

Until it's determined conclusively that whomever gave it to him had no authority to do so, claiming it as true (or even probably true) is a fallacy.

As for whether the giftor "understood the significance" of the item, that is absolutely irrevelant. The government can't make someone a gift, and then four decades later come back and say, "Well, we didn't think it would actually become so valuable, so now we want it back."

Too bad. Once it was gifted, it became the astronaut's property, not NASA's, and it doesn't matter if it became the most important historical artifact in the history of mankind. It's still his property.

> Nonetheless, that camera is an artifact and
> will only increase in value as such over time.

While that may be true, it hardly gives rise to legal grounds for the government to seize it.

18.
Rose M. Welch (profile), Jul 1st, 2011 @ 2:16pm

Re: National Treasure

The camera belongs in a museum not in an auction.

Then maybe a museum should buy it, and everyone could be happy.

19.
Cynix, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 5:29pm

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Are you lot making fun of me?!

You're out of order you know that! Don't argue with the facts!

20.
A Guy, Jul 1st, 2011 @ 5:37pm

I am now going to ask for 10k dollars from you. What? You say that the 10K dollars is rightfully yours and you will not give it to me!!! I'll sue.

I don't see how the fact that they asked for it back after they gave it to him changes anything.

21.
Dave (profile), Jul 2nd, 2011 @ 2:55am

Money Problems

Perhaps our guvmint is now so poor that the 80 or so grand will make a difference. That'll take a bit off our multiple TRILLION debt!

22.
Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jul 2nd, 2011 @ 11:18am

Astronaut's camera

Ummm, as usual, "pegging" without further investigation or discussion.
If the camera was simply "forgotten" by NASA (that is, they "knew or should have known") of course, statute of limitations or laches (actually both) apply.
If NASA didn't know where the camera was (they have a paper trail that shows as far as they knew, it just disappeared), of course NOT!
You should know that - you appear to have absorbed a considerable amount of legal expertise (or think you did).

23.
LindaJoyAdams (profile), Jul 2nd, 2011 @ 11:37am

Govt property

laws do exist on the use of govt property. I actually have a letter from the federal government ( office of federal workers compensation- US Dept of Labor) that I need to specify in my will to the executor of my estate that the oxygen tanks that the govt paid for and I use, must be returned to the govt upon my demise. That means, the astronaut could use the camera in demonstrations and public appearances, etc. but since its govt property he can't sell it? of course, my used oxygen tanks, have little value compared to this camera? The current situation is that the govt contractor, ACS_Xerox has 11 years of unprocessed claims and currently our son, hauls tanks and we pay out of pocket although I'm approved for life by three govt contracted out health plans and the monopoly supplier in my area, Lincare is refusing service until OWCP pays them. The camera, like the O2 tanks, govt property forever. Linda Joy Adams

24.
Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2011 @ 6:07pm

Re: Re: \$80,000 is not petty.

Wrong!

11 - 6 = 5

wrong is wrong, no matter how many wrongs it takes.

25.
Michael (profile), Jul 3rd, 2011 @ 12:43am

With the end of the Shuttle program, people are leaving. Many of those leaving are going to be stealing and looting the program for all it's worth. Someone decided to try to go after this old astronaut for that same reason. They just want the trophy camera for themselves.

I worked at Circuit City when it went out of business, and I remember the new guy who started two weeks earlier stealing my work uniform - literally my shirt - probably so he could sell it on Ebay or tack it to his wall for some imaginary geek cred.

26.
darryl, Jul 3rd, 2011 @ 7:24am

Not NASA's to give !!!

NASA did not have a right to let him have it, and he was well aware that he did not have a right to receive it.

"Someone said I could have it !!!! "

Yea, right,, who ? your mom ?

But anyone who is honest would understand that !!! :)

27.
darryl, Jul 3rd, 2011 @ 7:35am

Re: Re: National Treasure

yes right as if museum's are made of money !!

Plus, if they buy it, they could be charged with receiving misappropriated government materiel.

Or are you happy to apply the "possesion is 9/10th's of the law" ?

Or the 'finders, keepers' statute ?

Who is the museum going to buy it off ? the US Government ? as they are the only ones with the right to sell it.

I know that if you wish to purchase government stock or equipment you have to go through a great deal of paperwork to ensure you can prove in the future that you did not steal it.

That would apply to NASA as well, NASA does not simply run a 'car boot' sale after each mission to make a few extra dollars, or give away the company tresures to employees !!

It may well have been provided to him as someone else stated, for his "show and tell" when he is on his speaking circuit, "Yes, kids this is the very camera I made this film with".

With the full understanding that when he 'finished' with it he would GIVE IT BACK.

Of Course, it is so easy to forget that bit.. :)

28.
Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2011 @ 9:03am

Re:

Really? Then how did they find the crashed Transformer ship?

29.
Rose M. Welch (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 10:17am

Re: Re: Re: National Treasure

You're assuming an awful lot of facts that aren't in evidence. At this point, we have no way of knowing who lawfully owns the property. Regardless, I was addressing a single point, which is that this piece belongs in a museum. I believe that the purchase of this piece by a museum, from the astronaut, would solve all of the problems present in this scenario.

NASA: They want the camera out of his hands. This would accomplish that.

Astronaut: He wants money. This would accomplish that.

The Public: We want historical pieces to be preserved for ourselves and future generations. This would accomplish that.

Museum: It would certainly be a nice addition to an existing exhibit, drawing in folks to see it. (Especially with the surrounding publicity.) This would accomplish that.

All of your other BS comments aren't relevant to my comment. Try again, stalker troll.

 Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here Name Email Get Techdirt’s Daily Email URL Subject Comment Options Save me a cookie
• Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
• Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>