This Woman Is Suing NASA To Stop It From Taking Moon Dust Neil Armstrong Gave Her
Laura Murray Cicco has filed a case against NASA in a preemptive move to keep the agency from seizing moon dust that belongs to her.
Cicco's vial of moon dust was allegedly a gift from the Apollo 11 icon Neil Armstrong.
Moon Dust Is 'Rightfully' Hers, Says Cicco
In the lawsuit, Cicco says that the vial of precious moon dust was a gift from Armstrong in the 1970s, Washington Post reports. It included a handwritten note addressed to 10-year-old Cicco — then Laura Murray — and signed by Armstrong.
The famed Apollo 11 astronaut was friends with her father, Tom Murray, a World War II pilot, the lawsuit claims. The two men were allegedly members of a secret club of male pilots called the Quiet Birdmen.
Cicco kept and displayed the autographed note in her room, but she didn't see the moon dust for decades after it was given to her. According to her, she only came across the vial five years ago as she was going through her late parents' possessions.
Court documents say that an expert acknowledged the possibility of the vial containing an actual sample of the moon's surface. Two different tests on the dust's composition had varying results, but the expert said that the sample could be moon dust mixed with Earth's own soil.
Christopher McHugh, her attorney, points out to Washington Post that Cicco is the rightful and legal owner of the moon dust, citing Armstrong's note as proof, which has been verified by a handwriting expert. The lawsuit, he explains, is to keep NASA from seizing it from her, as the agency has done to other private citizens in the past.
NASA And Moon Dust
In 2011, federal agents launched an operation on 74-year-old Joann Davis, who was attempting to sell two paperweights with lunar fragments. It was reportedly given by Armstrong to Davis' late husband who was an Apollo program engineer, but NASA officials suspected it was stolen government property.
Davis filed a case against NASA in 2013, reaching a $100,000 settlement in 2017.
McHugh points out that Cicco's case for her moon dust is even stronger than Davis' since there's an accompanying handwritten note.
"This is not stolen property," he continues. "Laura shouldn't be afraid that NASA is going to come knocking on her door and barge in and try and take the vial."
However, NASA's Lunar Allocations Handbook is clear on its stance regarding the dust.
"Lunar samples are the property of the United States Government, and it is NASA's policy that lunar sample materials will be used only for authorized purposes," the space agency states in the handbook.
Gizmodo adds that even some scientists doing research on moon dust don't have access to the real thing. Instead, they used simulated lunar dust.