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