NASA Sues Former Apollo 14 Astronaut over Lunar Camera

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Edgar Dean Mitchell, a lunar module pilot and the sixth person to walk on the surface of the Moon, is being sued by NASA. NASA wants Mitchell to return a camera that went to the Moon on the Apollo 14 mission. A lawsuit filed by the federal government on Thursday in a South Florida federal court claims that the former astronaut tried to sell the camera in an auction.

NASA, reportedly, learned in March that a British auction house “was planning to sell the camera at an upcoming Space History Sale” in May. According to a Boston Globe article, government lawyers contend that Mitchell “is exercising improper dominion and control over a NASA Data Acquisition Camera.’’  The lawyers “are asking US District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley to order Mitchell to return the camera immediately.”

The lawsuit says that the camera had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000—and that “all equipment and property used during NASA operations remains the property of NASA unless explicitly released or transferred to another party.”

Mitchell, who is eighty, said, “It’s utter nonsense.” He added that during “the moon mission era” he and other astronauts had gotten permission to take mementos from the space craft. “We have dozens of pieces. All of us who flew to the moon.”

In addition to requesting that the judge declare the camera property of the US government, the lawsuit asks that Mitchell be required “to pay all legal and court fees arising from the case.”

NASA Biographical data on Edgar Dean Mitchell


US sues astronaut for camera’s return (Boston Globe)

NASA sues ex-astronaut Edgar Mitchell seeking return of camera that went to moon on Apollo 14 (Washington Post/AP)

Ex-astronaut tries to sell camera from moon trip: It’s a developing story — NASA sues to get it back after seeing it up for auction (MSNBC/Reuters)

NASA sues ex-astronaut over camera that went to moon: Lawsuit contends Edgar Mitchell tried to sell camera at auction (Orlando Sentinel/AP)

119 thoughts on “NASA Sues Former Apollo 14 Astronaut over Lunar Camera”

  1. @OS, that’s funny because you actually started the kindergarten antics with me. Let’s review the record.

    From the Palin-Revere thread, you actually maintained composure for awhile unlike the other raging nutter regulars. But after a while you simply couldn’t contain yourself any longer.

    @ 6/8 5 pm: My first post. Insult free.

    The argument remained heated but insult free for awhile.

    @7:45 Buddha starts with the first insult: “Don’t let the facts get in your way, Defender of Ignorance.”

    I’ll just note the first instance of each insult for every commenter. In all cass, once the insults started, they continued until the end of the thread.

    Elaine and I debated civilly for a while.

    @11:32: Mespo gets in the game: “According to kderosa’s “Fractured History,””

    @11:45: I respond to Buddha’s insult with my own “Although, your speed is more like pounding your spoon against your highchair. You stay classy now.”

    @6/9 9:23 am Frank starts his insults: “Dear boy, if you can’t see the argument in OS comment you are duller than even I suspected.”

    @9:55 am Elaine gets in her first insult: “You seem to have difficulty comprehending words in print.”

    @10:50 I respond to Elaine’s insult: “This is embarrassing. And the fact that you are not embarrassed by it, means you have to shame..”

    @6/10 11:45am: Bob, Esq appears to get in an insult based on some tortured logic: “Re-writing history for the sake of helping a politician save face is about as disgusting as spitting on someone’s shoe.” This one is questionable and my response was civil.

    @12:08. Mike Spindell gives Bob, Esq an attaboy.

    @6/10 3:20: Bob, Esq gets in his first eral insult: “You are shameless sir.” My responses to him are still civil.

    @6:52: Mike Spindell joins the act: “Since this thread and its’ lead story are directly related to Ms. Palin, you show yourself to either be a liar or a mountebank.” and again a few minutes later “You sir are a troll”

    @ 7:25 Otteray Scribe joins the act: “The Palin sycophant has put up an impenetrable wall of denial” and a little later with “I do not try to argue with those who appear to have delusions.” and then “But then, we should not expect more from the history revisionists.” And then again at 10:34 “If not, then we will just have to continue ridiculing you with comments and jokes that continue to fly right over your head.” And again a few minutes later “Since we are dealing with such a highly intellectual person,” Then at 8:47 the next day you ran away for the first time “but since we may run out of brain bleach, I will not post any more.” The entire time, I directed no insult to Otteray Scribe. Then OS psoted again and I finally called him a “nitwit.” @9:12 am

    @6/15 7:41: Lottakatz joins in: “You folks are arguing with a religious fanatic,”

    @10:47 rafflaw joins in “I tend to agree with Buddha’s thought of a paid agent.”


    That seems to be it. Baer in mind that once the commentes started in with the insults they continued to make them in pactically every post thereafter. And I’m ignoring the ad hominems directed to others and the innuendo which may be questionable.

    That’s the record. It’s clear and unambiguous.

    The regulars started. I merely responded

    But feel free to review in case I missed something.

    To quote Otteray Scribe: No matter how many times evidence is put in your face, you declare victory and change the subject. That is preschool behavior, not appropriate for a legal blog.

    Indeed. I’ll bet he does not respond substantively yet again. He might declare victory though and/or change the subject.

  2. Having the camera as a memento is okay; however, attempting to auction it for his profit is wrong. He should be allowed to proceed with the auction if all the money goes to an American charity (since the camera was purchased by American taxpayers)–as with any money generated in future auctions.

    Legally speaking, isn’t there a statute of limitations on this category of ‘theft’

  3. Elaine M.:

    Congrats,I’ve been fortunate to find that life partner also.

  4. Ms. EM,

    I remember when Professor Turley was seeking guest bloggers he stated that they must avoid issues with trollish behavior ( I do not recall his exact words). However, when an intelligent, likeable person such as you engages hecklers you ruin your guest topic. Professor Turley does not joust with trolls and I humbly request that guest bloggers who fill-in for him do not engage them either.

    I state what I just did with an abundance of respect for you and you are–without question–one of my favorite personalities here.

  5. eniobob,

    Actually, I think marriages last longer if one’s feet are planted solidly on the ground. I do feel fortunate to have found the perfect man for me when I was just fifteen years old. We’ve been together nearly fifty years!

  6. Mrs M:

    I can’t resist:

    “Elaine M.
    1, July 3, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I got married the day before the first moon landing.”

    And I bet to this very second,your feet still haven’t touched ground.

  7. To the topic at hand, NASA really needs to get their priorities straight, namely, getting their budget met for the next missions in queue: orbital and moon bases for construction and refueling of intra- and interstellar craft and a mission to Mars. Harassing Edgar Mitchell about a camera because you guys “can’t find the receipt” from when you gave it to him forty years ago is not only non-productive for either mission building or your budgetary battles, it’s bad PR to attack former astronauts over petty bullshit like this. You wonder why public support isn’t as robust as it once was? Well unfocused non-mission critical nonsense like this doesn’t help the public perception that NASA’s utility is on the wane. You guys want to be displaced by private enterprise and the new state capitalism of the Chinese? Just keep it up.

    And speaking of nonsense . . . my but the new troll has been busy in my absence.

    Review the record? Let’s do that, shall we?

    Let’s see . . .

    You came to this blog with this initial post which was a blatant attempt a historical revisionism in favor of Sarah Palin’s completely inept and factually incorrect re-telling of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

    Lying about history for political purposes automatically puts you in the propaganda troll column. Sorry! That’s just how it is. An attempt at historical revisionism that was shoved down your lying throat with a big heaping spoonful of evidence. People interested in how far you’ll go to try to propagate a lie need only read the rest of that thread.

    That you are a propaganda troll has only been confirmed by your subsequent actions on other threads. Your ineptness in both targeting and execution are another matter. If you don’t like how blatant liars and propagandists are treated around here?

    Too bad.

    As OS said, you have the option of not acting like a liar and a propagandist.

    Short of that? You’re getting the same treatment every other propaganda troll gets around here because you are what you is.

    If you just like coming back for that abuse after being exposed as a liar for political gain, that say far more about you than it does about how this community deals with liars and propagandists. Never give the public a rest don’t you know. And to be clear how we deal with liars and propagandists is with a combination of debunking, savage mockery and turning your own methods against you, Rove-lite.

    Your options are limited. You do not have the upper hand in this situation. You are, in fact, our playthings.

  8. k, I do not care to get into a kindergarten argument with you. No matter how many times evidence is put in your face, you declare victory and change the subject. That is preschool behavior, not appropriate for a legal blog. What substantial comments regarding legal ownership of NASA property vs astronaut possession of said artifacts have you made in this thread? I can answer that for you: None.

  9. OS, shall we review the record and we shall see who started what first? I also gave you two days of insult-free commenting and you and the other jackasses on this site just simply could not stop.

    Come on, OS, let me know and we can review the record and see who is right and who trolled first. Or you can just run away after taking your typical potshots like you usually do.

  10. When one acts like a boor, gets called on it, but yet persists in the boorish behavior, we get the idea that you are a troll and did not come here to participate constructively. Now what can a troll do to prove they are not a troll? I have it! Don’t act like one.

    Or are we to assume the boor is so stupid as to not realize how lacking in social skills they are?

  11. @mespo727272

    You’re missing the point. kderosa and Roco have all the earmarks (and sloped foreheads for that matter) of paid trolls sent to disrupt normal people’s conversations.

    That’s a very trollish statement. You and your cohorts started the trolling over at the Paul Revere and haven’t stopped since. The record is clear.

    Now you’re crying like a whiny little girl.

    Apparently, you and Elaine are trolling your own community.

  12. From CNET:

    NASA sues astronaut over Apollo 14 camera
    June 30, 2011

    In Reuters’ description, Mitchell’s lawyer says that he received permission from NASA to take the camera.

    The mention of the word “lawyer” might lead you to conclude that there might be a dispute. Indeed, the U.S. government, on behalf of NASA, has reportedly filed papers in court to prevent the auction from happening and to have the camera returned to NASA.

    Donald Jacobson, Mitchell’s lawyer, told Reuters: “Objects from the lunar trips to the moon were ultimately mounted and then presented to the astronauts as a gift after they had helped NASA on a mission.”

    However, NASA is saying that as it has no written record of the transfer of ownership, it should have it back.

    Indeed, the Palm Beach Post says the government is being remarkably insistent in its filing. It quotes the papers as saying: “Defendant Edgar Mitchell is a former NASA employee who is exercising improper dominion and control over a NASA Data Acquisition Camera.”

    The camera was expected to fetch somewhere between $60,000 to $80,000, which doesn’t seem a vast enough amount for NASA to toss a conniption.

    Still, it is now up to a Miami court to suddenly decide who enjoys rightful ownership.

    Mitchell himself told the Palm Beach Post that astronauts took dozens of items with them after a mission. He said the lunar module that he piloted was actually blown up, once it returned to Houston. He believes that the camera and other items in his possession–like a hand controller–are nothing more than “government junk.”

    He 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.

    To the untrained, non-legal eye, this case might seem a little mean-spirited. Mitchell served his nation in an honorable manner. Why turn around after 40 years and claim he stole a camera?

    Might it be something to do with the fact that Mitchell has expressed views that some regard as eccentric, such as claiming that aliens have better technology than humans?

  13. I’m blown away by the fact that someone in NASA and/or DOJ thought up this lawsuit. To what end are they striving?. I would guess that up to 80% of all things major museums have on hand are undisplayed and not easily retrievable. Excessive zealotry, in the pursuit of needless justice, is its own separate insanity.

  14. Patric P., It is an odd thing to say, but Pete Conrad, like several of the lunar astronauts, has a dry sense of humor.

  15. Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean said:

    “The two cameras he and astronaut Pete Conrad took to the moon in 1969 stayed there, he said. ‘They’re probably still up there.”

    Does anyone else think this is a rather odd thing for an astronaut to say?

  16. Anniversary upcoming: Coming up the 20th of this month is the 42nd anniversary of the first moon landing.

    That event is one of the few ‘where were you on’ events of my life. Kennedy assassination, moon landing, Lennon murder and twin towers.

  17. i’ve been reading on wikipedia about the lunar landings, a very interesting read. there was an an astronaut and geologist on apollo 17 named Harrison Hagan Schmitt whose nickname is “Jack”.

    I was wondering how someone named Harrison Hagan could acquire a nickname like that, and since I don’t know “Jack” Schmitt, I can’t ask him.

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