In a preemptive move, a woman who claims to own a vial of lunar dust is suing NASA in federal court to prevent them from seizing it.
Ars Technica reports on this unusual case of a plaintiff attempting to establish ownership of alleged lunar material. Laura Murray Cicco says that when she was 10 years old, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, who was a friend of her father’s, gave her the precious vial and a signed note.
While the case is unusual, it’s not a first. Cicco’s attorney, Christopher M. McHugh of Seigfreid Bingham in Kansas City, Missouri, had previously — and successfully —represented another client who had also acquired lunar dust. With ownership legally recognized, that client went on to sell the vial for millions of dollars.
Of note from Ars about the location of Cicco’s vial’s and legal precedent:
“In court filings, McHugh wrote that Cicco’s lunar sample has been moved to an undisclosed location in Kansas, while she continues to live in Tennessee — likely because there is now a legal precedent in this particular judicial district.”
McHugh also stated to Ars he filed his client’s case with federal court because it’s NASA’s position that lunar material is government property and, therefore, stolen if in private possession.