NASA Sues Astronaut For Taking Moon Souvenir

By Sara Dover
|  Friday, Jul 1, 2011  |  Updated 10:03 AM EDT
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Edgar Mitchell tried to auction off a lunar camera he brought back from his mission with Apollo 14. Above, an official 1970 portrait.

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Edgar Mitchell brought back a souvenir from his Apollo 14 mission to the moon and recently tried to sell it. But now NASA is suing him to get the artifact back.

The lunar camera used to explore the surface of the moon during the 1971 mission could fetch between $60,000 and $80,00 Reuters reports.  The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, claims it was illegal for the sixth man on the moon to take it.

"All equipment and property used during NASA operations remains the property of NASA unless explicitly released or transferred to another party," NASA claims in the suit, adding that they never gave the astronaut permission to keep the camera.

Mitchell says that the case is "utter nonsense," according The Palm Beach Post.

"They were going to throw it away on the lunar surface, so why not?" he told the paper. The former astronaut also said that other moon walkers often get permission to take home mementos and that "we have dozens of pieces." NASA brought up the camera issue with him before, but he thought they figured things out.

Mitchell is now retired and sells autographed pictures on a website, Reuters reports. He has  been labeled eccentric  for his belief in extraterrestrial life and two years ago, he told a British radio station that human-invented technology is "not nearly as sophisticated" as that of aliens, CNET reported.

Selected Reading: CNET, Reuters, The Palm Beach Post

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