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NASA Sues Apollo Astronaut To Return Moon Camera

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the thanks-for-exploring-space-for-us dept.

NASA 395

Hugh Pickens writes "The US government has brought a lawsuit against astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, after discovering that Mitchell had approached a NY auction house trying to sell a 16-millimeter data acquisition camera that was supposed to have been left in the lunar module. Mitchell argues that too many years have gone by for the government to pursue the camera as stolen and besides, it was given to the now 80-year-old moonwalker as a gift in line with NASA's then-policies governing spent equipment. However, the government contends it has no record of the camera being given to Mitchell who elected to remove it from the lunar module before parting ways with the spacecraft and returning to Earth, and the judge has ruled that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations denying Mitchell's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The Apollo 14 astronauts were not the only crewmates to salvage parts of their lunar module as mementos: Astronauts aboard Apollo 12 and Apollo 15 ripped off parts of their moonwalking suits' life support backpacks before they were discarded onto the lunar surface. But what makes Mitchell's case different is that other astronauts asked their bosses before each mission for permission and provided a list of items they planned to keep while apparently Mitchell didn't. 'They give me a list of things they're going to bring back,' said Deke Slayton, head of NASA's astronaut corps, who died in 1993. 'I give it to the program office and they bring 'em back.' For his part, Mitchell does not seem ready to give up the camera as the case prepares to go to trial next year."

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Oh boy... (4, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692388)

The conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this one...

Re:Oh boy... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693002)

The conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this one...

Nevermind that, if violating an order, by taking the camera back with them had been sufficient to affect the launch from the Moon and created an Apollo 13 like crisis (or even killed the astronauts) would it be OK? This isn't so much of a Space Cowboy as a Space Rustler.

Still gotta admire his Space Gumption!

Re:Oh boy... (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693100)

Nevermind that, if violating an order, by taking the camera back with them had been sufficient to affect the launch from the Moon and created an Apollo 13 like crisis (or even killed the astronauts) would it be OK?

Apollo astronauts weren't retards. There was a significant margin in return mass and no chance that a 16mm camera would take them over that margin unless they were already in 'an Apollo 13 like crisis'.

Heck, it's not like they weighed every moon rock before the return trip to make sure they didn't have too many.

Not bound by the statute of limitations? (4, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692404)

Did I just read that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations?

..and here I thought the statute of limitations was specifically there to bind the government.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (2)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692472)

Did I just read that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations?

..and here I thought the statute of limitations was specifically there to bind the government.

ROFL! You make a good point.

I think the government just make laws up on the fly these days.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (2)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692634)

Laws? We don't use laws anymore. Any policy or signing statement [wikipedia.org] will do. Heck, we'll settle for enforcing laws from other countries [foxnews.com] . Our own laws though, they're flawed [youtube.com] .

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692764)

Laws? We don't use laws anymore.

Heh, yeah, The government seems to be OK with murdering their own citizens without process, or with obviously flawed process. Up to now they have been minorities, Muslim or black, that will change. Just wait around, eventually they will be water boarding little school girls for their lunch money.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (3, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692904)

Just wait around, eventually they will be water boarding little school girls for their tax revenue stream.

FTFY.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693070)

...for the pay per view broadcast rights.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (0)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692882)

I think the government just make laws up on the fly these days.

This government does.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692932)

The bush administration was way worst.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692538)

Same here I know it also extends to civilians, but I have never heard the government say they are exempt.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692610)

if they're not bound by the constitution why would they care about the statute of limitations?

captcha: congress

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692672)

The Moon is not US territory. Clearly, Jules Verns has juristiction.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (4, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692888)

Yes, you read that. It was written by the submitter, not by the judge or by the lawyers. The judge said that the Federal government is not bound by State statues. And so even if in that particular state there's a law that says stolen property becomes the property of the possessor after X amount of time, these laws do not apply to Federal property. But that's not as nice of an anti-government soundbite, so obviously some words had to be excised.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (5, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693086)

Well, let's consider the Federal Statute of limitations.

This page [federalcriminallawyer.us] has a summary.

The basic Fed statute of limitations is 5 years [cornell.edu] .

There are exceptions. Unless it's a capital offense or child sexual abuse, or "continuing and uninterrupted offenses" (fugitive from the law, possession of counterfeit money, etc.) the maximum appears to be 10 years.

With one eye-catching exception:

In cases of defrauding the United States, if the fraud was related to a contract, property, or other claim with the Department of Defense (eg, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Army) and the US is at war, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until after hostilities have ended. 18 USC 3287.

So... all we need is for the government to assert that the camera was actually military property (by some tortured extension of the relationship between NASA and the DoD, or by the fact that Mitchell was a Navy Officer at the time of the offense), and that the United States has been at a continuous state of war since the time of the offense.

Judging from how the government has been treating other civil rights, I could definitely imagine it arguing for that latter point. Haven't we been in a state of undeclared war since 1950 or something? I mean, we've always been at war with Eastasia. ALWAYS.

Of course, IANAL, and this is all speculation. But there is a Federal Statute of Limitations, and it would take some kind of brass to just handwave it away.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692906)

The government is bound by the statute of limitations when the government decides it should be bound by the statute of limitations.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37693058)

Exactly. And sometimes that means...they decide not to have a statute of limitations at all.

Often to avoid abuses, like say, Catholic Priests being taken out of a state to avoid questions or prosecution on an abuse charge.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37693012)

From what I read of the article, it's because the statute of limitations he cited were for Florida. While the judge said that it didn't apply because it's a federal court, not a state one, didn't the alleged theft happen on the moon? What jurisdiction would that be?

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (5, Interesting)

pyrr (1170465) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693030)

The statute of limitations doesn't apply. They're not prosecuting him for a crime.

They're attempting to recover stolen property. Just because you stole something a really long time ago doesn't make it yours, free and clear. That's why the government can repossess moon rocks, no matter whose hands they passed through over the years. The odds of most stolen property after years and passing through many hands is remote, most people don't care enough to pursue their stuff that long...but if someone shows up one day, claiming to possess something he stole and using the people he stole it from as being the provenance that gives it all its value (the camera would be worth what, $100 tops as an obsolete scientific curiosity had it not gone to the moon?), I think the US Government is well within its rights to demand return of its property.

Re:Not bound by the statute of limitations? (1)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693040)

Not to mention, we can't sue the government but apparently the government can sue us.

How's that again? (5, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692430)

'They give me a list of things they're going to bring back,' said Deke Slayton, head of NASA's astronaut corps, who died in 1993.

A guy who died 18 years ago is the head of NASA's astronaut corps? That explains a lot.

Should we refer to it as the astronaut "corpse" then?

Re:How's that again? (1)

decep (137319) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692682)

We took his soul to heaven and were supposed to leave it in the module, but we brought it back.

Re:How's that again? (5, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692718)

The fact that he's still talking is what really bothers me.

Re:How's that again? (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692836)

THIS, is the start of the Zombie Apocalypse!!!!

Re:How's that again? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693108)

The fact that he's still talking is what really bothers me.

It probably bothered NASA at first; but, after 18 years of it, I imagine they've learned to tune it out most of the time.

Perfect for the job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692832)

A guy who died 18 years ago is the head of NASA's astronaut corps? That explains a lot.

Should we refer to it as the astronaut "corpse" then?

What does NASA need a living head of its astronaut corps for? It's not like it has any spacecraft to send them up in.

Re:How's that again? (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692890)

They've got a zombie in charge of the astronaut corps. He was also quoted as saying: "We need more astronauts. Astronauts with tasty BRRRAAAIIIIIINNNNNSSS!!!!!!"

"government is not bound by" (5, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692440)

"...government is not bound by..."

This pretty much explains how we got to where we are today.

Re:"government is not bound by" (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692880)

+1 for you, if I had mod points today.

Re:"government is not bound by" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37693102)

Oh yes, it's the government that bankrupted your house, not the peaceful, benign and benevolent corporations.

Lunatics giving money to lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692444)

Damn, I should have become a lawyer in stead of a scientist!

Re:Lunatics giving money to lawyers (1)

johnthorensen (539527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692794)

Better still: become truly evil, give yourself over to the Dark Side, and become an Expert Witness. :)

Welcome to the USA... (3, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692450)

Where we shit on our heros at a moments notice over really dumb things.

Re:Welcome to the USA... (2)

blueturffan (867705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692668)

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Mitchell an "American Hero" (TM).

Yes, he walked on the moon and that puts him in very rare company. However, I think he was a bit of a loon. I think NASA may still be bothered by the whole unauthorized ESP experiments that took place on the return trip. That kind of thing is definitely "not in line with NASA expectations"

Re:Welcome to the USA... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692670)

I'm torn on this. On one hand, he is a hero. On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property. It probably would have slipped under the radar except he attempted to profit off it. Basically he went about this the wrong way. Also anyone who has, and ever will work with any governmental agency will tell you, GET IT IN WRITING with hand signatures. Hearsay doesn't mean diddly-squat to them.

Re:Welcome to the USA... (3, Informative)

jesseck (942036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692884)

On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property.

Government property that was meant to remain abandoned on the Moon. What expectation did the Government have they would recover it?

Re:Welcome to the USA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37693026)

On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property.

Government property that was meant to remain abandoned on the Moon. What expectation did the Government have they would recover it?

Quit making logical sense. That's forbidden behavior during U.S. property disputes.

Re:Welcome to the USA... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692886)

Yeeeeees, but if it was meant to be left on the lander, then by now it would have been destroyed or badly damaged had he done nothing. This act - regardless of the motive or the legality - has actually preserved an element of history that wouldn't otherwise exist. (Americans claim they don't have much history, but the reality is that Americans have had vast amounts of the stuff but it keeps getting destroyed for one reason or another.)

Frankly, I don't care who wins this battle. We win if the camera ends up in a science museum. We lose if the camera ends up disposed-of or left to rot in the attic of a collector. (Collectors aren't much good at preserving things either - several pages were ripped out of the Archimedes Palimpsest, two were coloured in by the previous collector to boost auction value, and mould had seriously damaged what was left. It was amazing anything was salvaged from it at all.)

The rest really doesn't matter.

Re:Welcome to the USA... (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692900)

Not only would it have "slipped under the radar", it was on the government books as "expended". According to official records it was left on the moon with no intention of ever recovering it. If this was an item that was supposed to be brought back to the earth as part of the mission, I would say that the government has a point, even if all they would have done with it is stick it in a box in a warehouse somewhere. However, until he tried to sell it, the government thought it was gone forever.

Re:Welcome to the USA... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692994)

I'm torn on this. On one hand, he is a hero. On the other, that camera was paid for with US tax dollars and itemized as government property.

On the gripping hand, it would have been thrown out as trash.

...and this has to do with /. ... how? (-1, Troll)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692454)

It's a legal issue having nothing to do with technology, why is it cluttering up these august pages?

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692508)

It's a legal issue having nothing to do with technology, why is it cluttering up these august pages?

You could argue that the money NASA is blowing on lawyers to chase after one of the heroes of the Apollo program for selling a camera which was going to be thrown away anyway could be better spent developing new technology.

Just suggestin'.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692646)

Yeah if I was said astronaut I would take a little boat trip, drop the camera overboard and say "what camera?"

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

Aeros (668253) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692938)

nah I wouldn't call him a hero. A thief yes, but not a hero. We paid for this and went about getting it absolutely the wrong way. I would be happy if he returned it, paid NASA any cost incurred to them from this as a result of lawyer fees and anything else related and that's that. If he turns around and starts to be a dick about it then fine him and look at throwing some jail time in there as well for him. Just my thoughts.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693034)

We paid for this and went about getting it absolutely the wrong way.

The Apollo astronauts left a lot of poop bags on the moon too, which NASA paid for; both the bags and the poop inside them. If he'd brought back a bag full of space-poop and was selling it, would you be making the same argument?

Ultimately it's a camera which was to be abandoned on the moon, which would have essentially no value if it hadn't been to the moon because very soon you won't even be able to buy 16mm film anymore. If the government gets it back they're just going to stick it in a box and it will never be seen again.

What's the point? NASA looks bad and gains nothing unless it then turns around and sells the camera itself.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692510)

Next there will be a story of someone who is selling the barn where the Wright brothers built the first place.

Mesmerizing stuff.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

mulvane (692631) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692864)

I've heard of the Wright Brothers and the things they were first to do. But really? I'm pretty sure they didn't build the first place. Depending on your religious or evolution beliefs, I'm sure some prior art can refute this claim.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692824)

Moon thievery? Come on man. Save the grunting for the next bitcoin post.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (3, Insightful)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692966)

why is it cluttering up these august pages?

Because it's OCTOBER, you loserboy nerd.

Re:...and this has to do with /. ... how? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693106)

This may be the best username/post combo in Slashdot history.

Defecit Reduction! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692460)

Hey, we have to fill the gap somehow...

hoax (1)

rish87 (2460742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692498)

government wants the camera back because it has undeniable proof that the landings were a hoax. or maybe footage of our dealings with secret aliens to acquire microchip technology....

One law for the people, another law (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692518)

the government is not bound by the statute of limitations

Funny, IANAL but isn't that exactly what a statute of limitations DOES? Puts time limits on the government being able to go after you for anything from petty theft to capital murder.

Also it kinda reminds me of this case [liveleak.com] , where a judge ruled that the government is "immune to lawsuits when property is in custody of law enforcement.".

So it looks like the odds are pretty stacked in favor of the government. Tell yourself exactly how "free" you are, nowadays.

Re:One law for the people, another law (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693042)

Funny, IANAL but isn't that exactly what a statute of limitations DOES? Puts time limits on the government being able to go after you for anything from petty theft to capital murder.

Sorry to disappoint you, but murder is not subject to a statute of limitations in any jurisdiction, even where you live.

NASA values camera more than avoiding bad press? (5, Interesting)

johnthorensen (539527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692544)

Seems like a silly choice if you ask me. Especially when the guy is 80-years-old and a national hero. Moon rocks, I understand - they're in limited supply and of real research value. A camera? C'mon.

As a sidenote, Space is about the only topic outside of friends and family that can still bring a tear to this grown man's eye. For me, it's the last romantic pursuit of mankind, and one which I treat with the utmost reverence. It's a shame that it's so wrapped up in politics.

For God's sake cut the guy some slack (2)

fredmunge (717927) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692556)

It sounds like internal NASA politics bullshit. I bet the person at NASA leading the charge to get the camera back would piss themselves at the mere thought of going through the level risk those guys embraced. They would rather have left it on the moon than let an astronaut keep it? IMO that's a tragedy.

What is the point? (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692576)

How retarded they are mad at him for not leaving it on the moon. So instead of it sitting on the moon collecting space dust it's on earth and he wants to sell it, big deal? At some point it has to simply not be worth your time to bother with. It's not like there is some sort of statement you're trying to make because we aren't ever sending anyone back to the moon again. So no one will ever be able to repeat his 'crime' of bringing back moon garbage. I swear bureaucratic astound me at how they love to enforce trivial things.

Re:What is the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692866)

There is no atmosphere on the moon, other than nearby impacts, there's nothing to move space dust around. Everything left behind should be in pristine condition.

The piece should be in a museum. It was paid for by tax dollars, the public should be able to see it.

Its about the sale not the possession? (5, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692902)

I am just guessing but I expect its not about possessing the "discarded" gear, rather its about trying to profit from it. If it had been passed on to his kids/grandkids or put in a museum for display I doubt the government would have cared.

Re:What is the point? (1)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693020)

This isn't even about taking stuff that was supposed to be left on the moon. It seems like they were angry that he didn't leave it in the lunar module; hence, if all went according to plan, the camera would have disintegrated with the lunar module during Earth re-entry. The government response to this sounds like the sort of bureaucratic uptightness normally reserved for the military.

C'mon NASA... (3, Insightful)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692578)

...it's stories like these that make people look at you and say "Boy, I sure am glad the government cut their funding!"

The judge is wrong (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692614)

the judge has ruled that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations

What good is the statute of limitations if the courts are going to arbitrarily ignore it? By what logic is the judge ignoring the law?

Re:The judge is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692766)

IANAL, but those often have a reference tof some sort that it doesn't start until "parties become, or reasonably should become aware of the action" and since the moon is rather remote, they [the government] could reasonably argue they had no idea he did this until now. I'm not sure I agree with it being worth the effort to sue him now, but I don't see this as the same thing as just ignoring the law. Though the government does seem to be doing a lot of that lately, so what do I know?

Re:The judge is wrong (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692792)

By what logic is the judge ignoring the law?

By the logic of "It makes going after the Bad Guys* tougher!"

*"Bad Guys" is whomever the government says at the moment. Having to designate "Bad Guys" and stick to that designation also makes going after the Bad Guys harder.

This logic has the basic underpinnings of one of my 5-year-old twins yelling "That's not fair!" because I give both of the twins exactly and scrupulously the same treatment, but he wants favorable treatment. (For instance, both kids getting exactly the same amount of ice cream, but he wants more than his sister.)

Re:The judge is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692800)

Presumably the article is just written horribly. What the judge likely ruled was that no statute of limitations applied in this case. A statute of limitations is just that, a statute created by the legislature telling the executive they can't prosecute/sue someone for something after a certain amount of time has passed. If no statute applies to this particular case, then the government can still pursue it.

Re:The judge is wrong (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692922)

Since the crime took place on the moon, does the judge even have jurisdiction?

Let the guy keep the camera. Jeeez... (3, Interesting)

rcb1974 (654474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692624)

This astronaut risks his life to go to the moon, and now the government isn't even letting him keep a little piece of garbage (essentially, that is what it is) that he brought back as a memento. How incredibly lame.

Re:Let the guy keep the camera. Jeeez... (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692644)

He's not trying to keep it, he's trying to sell it.

Re:Let the guy keep the camera. Jeeez... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692838)

He's not trying to keep it, he's trying to sell it.

And unless that ancient piece of hardware is going to command a new multi-billion dollar budget for NASA at auction, NASA should give a shit about this why?

At auction, this thing probably won't even fetch enough to pay for a NASA toilet seat, but could bring significant benefit to the seller(and buyer for that matter), not to mention perhaps getting some good press out of it. Instead, NASA decided to take a shit on it and call out a national hero. Nice, real nice.

NASA, you embarrassed a Nation today. Learn to leave well enough alone.

crime on the moon? (3, Interesting)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692628)

Since the camera was meant to be left there, this alleged crime would have occurred on the moon. Does this mean that the US federal government has jurisdiction on the moon?

Re:crime on the moon? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692742)

Since the camera was meant to be left there, this alleged crime would have occurred on the moon. Does this mean that the US federal government has jurisdiction on the moon?

Interesting point. Maybe if the moon was exactly above the USA when it happened? How many miles up is US jurisdiction? What about satellites that fly above many countries?

On the other hand, there may be a principle that a deed falls under the jurisdiction of the place where it took effect. If he had stolen the camera from his fellow astronaut on the moon, that would have happened on the moon and not be under US jurisdiction. Same as the US can't throw you into jail if you steal jewellery in Germany and take it into the USA (as long as you do everything strictly by the book when you import the stolen goods). Even if you stole from an American. But it may be that he was legally allowed to bring the camera back to earth, but was obliged to hand it back to the NASA. In that case, the action would have happened on earth.

US flagged vessel is US jurisdiction (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693000)

IANAL but my understanding is that vessels at sea are under the legal jurisdiction of the country whose flag they fly. Warships even remain the territory of their country after being sunk. I'd expect spacecraft would operate under similar rules, especially government owned spacecraft.

abandoned and fair game. (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692870)

Since the camera was abandoned on the moon, it should have been fair game.

Re:crime on the moon? (1)

Scutter (18425) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692918)

Up above the clouds, there is no law.

S K Y C R I M E !!!

Re:crime on the moon? (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692976)

Since the camera was meant to be left there, this alleged crime would have occurred on the moon. Does this mean that the US federal government has jurisdiction on the moon?

That's easy enough to find out. See who's paying the property taxes on the real estate containing the movie set where the moon landing was filmed...jurisdiction issue solved!

Abandoned property (5, Insightful)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692680)

You'd think anything purposely designated to be left on the Moon is about as abandoned as property can get.

Re:Abandoned property (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692820)

You'd think anything purposely designated to be left on the Moon is about as abandoned as property can get.

And in internationally accepted practice, such as naval salvage, you're entitled to it.

What do you suppose will happen, though, if some unethical weasel goes to the moon, gloms onto some of the artifacts and brings them back?

Uh, huh. Gummint suddenly revises the rules, but saying there's no rule and then takes the unethical weasel to court. Two wrongs, sorta fing.

Re:Abandoned property (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693056)

First resolve the issue of getting the unethical weasel to the moon to begin with; then we can talk about salvage rights.

Re:Abandoned property (2)

melikamp (631205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692914)

It's funny, but IMHO not true. Barring a cataclysmic event, Moon will surely be colonized within a few millenniums, and all of that trash will have tremendous historical value. I don't see how anyone but NASA has a legitimate claim to it, and I would much rather see these items in a public museum than locked up in some collector's private stash.

Re:Abandoned property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692942)

It wasn't abandoned. They were planning on going back to pick it up some day. Watch, they'll launch another Moon mission just to prove it!

(What a commentary on America it would be if a court case did in fact cause us to go to the Moon again. Curiosity? Innovation? Progress? Nah, we're driven by lawyers now.)

Re:Abandoned property (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692946)

You'd think anything purposely designated to be left on the Moon is about as abandoned as property can get.

Absolutely.

Since NASA still wants to hold value against their "abandoned" property by initiating this lawsuit, perhaps he should counter with a lawsuit forcing NASA to either tend to the "valuable" garbage, or force them to sign a document stating that it IS truly abandoned, and therefore dismissing this lawsuit altogether.

Of course, I suspect another army of lawyers will want to stand up and argue jurisdiction rights related to abandonment laws on the moon, carrying this pointless lawsuit out several more years...

IANAL, nor do I play on on TV...YMMV...

Re:Abandoned property (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692958)

The only time abandoned property within international territory is off-limits is when it's a war grave. So unless the government isn't telling us something, salvage rights would seem to apply. Now, if he didn't declare it on the customs form, he might owe the government import duties, but that's about it.

First pickpocket on the moon! (0)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692698)

Edgar Mitchell is officially known as the first pickpocket on the moon!

What he did was quite dangerous. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692706)

The spacecraft they were flying were all very fragile machines. Please don't imagine a tiny pocket camera. It is likely to be quite heavy. Further with chemicals and batteries etc, there are other hazards too. The mission they were undertaking was extremely dangerous and risky and nothing should have been done with deliberation, forethought and thorough review of every contingency. To randomly rip off pieces from spacecraft and smuggle it aboard jeopardizes the mission, the vehicle and the crew.

It is probably not as stupid as that test pilot with a broken foot hiding the fact from the Air Force in a glory seeking attempt to be the first to break the sound barrier. That is the best one can say about the incident.

Re:What he did was quite dangerous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692798)

Chuck Yeager [wikipedia.org] broke two ribs before the flight. Hiding a broken foot would have been a lot more difficult and dangerous.

Re:What he did was quite dangerous. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693048)

OK it was ribs not the foot. Still the point stands. Can we say for certain that all previous attempts failed because of faulty engineering, bad machines or machine failures? Is it possible there could have been a less celebrated but equally vainglorious test pilot who hid an injury or a temporary disability and crashed a perfectly good plane? Think how many months/years the technology would have been delayed or even abandoned if Chuck had crashed that plane instead of successfully landing it back again.

Re:What he did was quite dangerous. (1)

kidcharles (908072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692912)

You make a good point. I believe they needed to know the exact weight of the various craft to calculate required thrust and fuel supply. If the camera weighed enough that could have thrown off their calculations.

Think this is interesting...? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692780)

Wait until they get to the Zapruder film from the moon.

Why am I not surprised? (5, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692784)

Honestly, I'm not that surprised that of all the astronauts who walked on the moon that this would be an issue with Edgar Mitchell. He's always been a bit of an odd ball/loose cannon. He's a strong believer in psychics and thinks that UFOs are actually visiting aliens. He also claims to have been involved in remote healing and ESP. He founded the very New Agey Institute for Noetic Sciences http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Noetic_Sciences [wikipedia.org] (some may remember them for getting some degree of reference in Dan Brown's last book.) A lot of NASA has had very little patience with him. It isn't surprising that he'd both have neglected to do something like tell the rest of NASA what he was taking back and that he would have annoyed them enough that they would not end up finding an amicable resolution of the issue.

Re:Why am I not surprised? (2)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692956)

He's always been a bit of an odd ball/loose cannon. He's a strong believer in psychics and thinks that UFOs are actually visiting aliens. He also claims to have been involved in remote healing and ESP. He founded the very New Agey Institute for Noetic Sciences (some may remember them for getting some degree of reference in Dan Brown's last book.) A lot of NASA has had very little patience with him.

But what if he's right?

The Big Question Is... (2)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692868)

The big question is: How did he get it through quarantine on his return 40 years ago? Like nobody noticed that he had this movie camera in his pocket at the time and said, "Hey Edgar, is that a camera in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

Keep dont sell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37692916)

I have no problem with astronauts keeping memorabilia.
I have a big problem with astronauts monetizing that memorabilia.
Analogy: Chef eats free lunch at restaurant; Chef sells his free lunch to third party.

Husband fucks whife; Husband sells videos of the fucking on the internet (does not share income)

Being an ex-astronaut sucks now. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692926)

One other ex-astronaut recently complained that NASA pulled his visitors badge for NASA Houston. There used to be a policy that astronauts could visit the old place, but no longer. NASA still has about 60 active astronauts on the payroll, which is about 40 more than they need. They haven't officially announced layoffs, but there is pressure to quit or retire.

Setting Precedent (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692952)

If they let this guy keep the camera then they're setting a bad precedent. It would mean that all future astronauts on US manned lunar missions would... oh wait... never mind. Precedent averted due to lack of manned lunar missions.

So what they did means nothing (1)

pcman (658826) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692970)

These guys risk their lives to go into space and do what is asked of them. Now they are sued for keeping a memento that was going to be discarded anyway? He should sue NASA as he just found out how dangerous it really was and they risked his life. Good grief.

Back where it belongs (2)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692986)

If NASA do want this camera, they should be duty bound to follow through and restore it to the place they think it should be: on the Moon. If they're not willing to do that, and just want to piss the guy off, they don't have the moral authority to claim ownership.

Either it goes back to it's rightful resting place, or the guy who brought it back gets to keep it. Choose.

salvage law (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693008)

It should be treated as marine salvage. I'm no expert at marine salvage law, so I don't know what that entails, but the fact that it took place on the moon should make no difference.

Settlement (2)

Translation Error (1176675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37693062)

I'm sure they'll come to a fair and reasonable agreement that all charges will be dropped if he simply puts the camera back where he found it.

How I would rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37693112)

Judge: You can have the camera back, on one condition - you have to put it back in the lunar module where it rightfully belongs.

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