Nasa astronaut sued over moon camera

2011-07-01 08:40

New York - The US government has sued a former Nasa astronaut to recover a camera used to explore the moon's surface during the 1971 Apollo 14 mission after seeing it slated for sale at a New York auction.

The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, accuses Edgar Mitchell of illegally possessing the camera and attempting to sell it for profit.

In March Nasa learned that the British auction house Bonhams was planning to sell the camera at a Space History Sale, according to the suit filed on Wednesday.

The item was labelled "Movie Camera from the Lunar Surface" and billed as one of two cameras from the Apollo 14's lunar module Antares. The lot description said the item came "directly from the collection" of pilot Edgar Mitchell and had a pre-sale estimate of $60 000 to $80 000, the suit said.

Mitchell was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, which launched its nine-day mission in 1971 under the command of Alan Shepard. The sixth person to walk on the moon, Mitchell is now retired and runs a website selling his autographed picture.


He has made headlines for his stated belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life.

"All equipment and property used during Nasa operations remains the property of Nasa unless explicitly released or transferred to another party," the government suit said, adding Nasa had no record of the camera being given to Mitchell.

The suit said the government had made repeated requests to Mitchell and his lawyer to return the camera, but received no response.

Mitchell's lawyer, Donald Jacobson, said Nasa management was aware of and approved Mitchell's ownership of the camera 40 years ago.

"Objects from the lunar trips to the moon were ultimately mounted and then presented to the astronauts as a gift after they had helped Nasa on a mission," Jacobson said.

Bonhams said in a statement that the camera had been slated to be auctioned off in May when it learned about the ownership dispute from Nasa. The auction house withdrew the camera from sale "pending further discussion between Nasa and the consignor", a Bonhams spokesperson said.

The government is asking the court to stop Mitchell from selling the camera to anyone, to order its return and to declare that the US has "good, clean and exclusive title" to the camera.

  • Voltage - 2011-07-01 09:19

    Is NASA really that hard up for money?

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 09:25

      Are you such a chop to think everything is about money? Do you think they want to sell it after its been recovered?

      Psyrkus - 2011-07-01 09:54

      @ManOTMoment Do you have to call someone a chop just because you don't agree with his opinion? What are you, 15?

      Voltage - 2011-07-01 10:06

      it is a 40 year old camera, what use is it to NASA. I doubt that the security at NASA is or ever was that bad that a person could simply walk out with NASA property. I would tend to believe it when the guy now selling it says it was given to him by NASA.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:10

      @ Psyrkus What would you prefer me calling him if he thinks NASA needs the camera back because they hard up for money. NASA is a government funded organisation, United States $14,580,000,000,000 GDP Richest country in the world. If you dont see the irony in this you just as thick as him.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:24

      Voltage " a 40 year old camera" its a piece of equipment worth over R 500 000.00 its not just any camera.

      Zion - 2011-07-01 10:46

      ManOTMoment, Don't be too sure about the financial state of the USA. China owns about 60% of USA Government bonds.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:57

      @Zion I just wanted to stress a point no reason to get technical now.

      Daemos1 - 2011-07-01 14:04

      it's actually $14.12 Trillion

      Richard Townley-Johnson - 2011-07-01 16:37

      @ ManOTMoment: I'm sure you know everything so maybe you can stop reading the news. And don't you wonder if NASA has better things to be doing? I doubt letting this camera sell is going to spark a flurry of other astronauts selling videos of moonwalks?!

      George - 2011-09-06 07:56

      Edgar is being punished for disclosing the existence of extraterrestrial life which Nasa and the US government have been trying to hide for decades. Nasa is embarrassed and will do anything petty and trivial to punish Edgar for violating secrecy oaths. Why would a trillion dollar organisation such as Nasa sue its top former moon walker for a mere 60K? Strange indeed.

  • ShRoOm PoPsiCLe - 2011-07-01 09:37

    It's a camera. The US has sunk to a new low.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 09:44

      So what you saying is its fine to take equipment from your employer and sell it for personal gain? Real SA mentality!

      Psyrkus - 2011-07-01 09:59

      @ManOTMoment Troll.

      Voltage - 2011-07-01 10:07

      Again ... an agency like NASA would have sufficient security to ensure that it property does not simply walk off the premesis.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:18

      @Psykus Pot calling kettle??? Don’t call me a troll just because you don’t agree with my opinion.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:39

      @ Voltage the guy is an astronaut I’m sure they don’t check him every time he leaves the premises like they do with staff at the Pick and Pay around the corner from you every close of business

  • Bloodbane - 2011-07-01 09:41

    funny how narrow minded people are... think of it this way, If I borrow something of your's and never give it back and then you find out I'm trying to sell it how would you feel?

      Psyrkus - 2011-07-01 10:01

      The difference is we're humans. NASA is a massive organisation. The last time I checked, organisations to that scale don't have 'feelings'.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:22

      @ Psyrkus you still not getting the point. It's about the principal. I don’t understand your logic, so what you saying is because it’s a big organisation they don’t have values and principals.

      Bloodbane - 2011-07-01 10:48

      @Psyrkus - so because it's a big organisation it's ok to steal from them? tell me who do you work for, I think they need to be warned they hired a klepto....

      Bloodbane - 2011-07-01 11:00

      lets put this is another light, a guy was fired from my work for stealing coffee. WOrks point of view is theft is theft. size or importants of the object doesnt matter.

      Daemos1 - 2011-07-01 14:05

      @ Psyrkus how did you check?

  • Matthew Healing - 2011-07-01 10:10

    Lets face it we all take the occasional pen at work....

      Bloodbane - 2011-07-01 10:53

      the camera is worth the same as a car, so are you telling me it's ok to take the occasional car from work?

      Matthew Healing - 2011-07-02 02:54

      Where do you draw the line then ?

  • BlouBul77 - 2011-07-01 10:22

    (in a Borat voice): "we go to moon to make moviefilm. great success!"

  • Zion - 2011-07-01 10:43

    It is not a camera but a bone. A bone of contention as in two dogs fighting over it. I have to agree with the opinion that NASA is acting childish in the matter. Bet somebody higher up wants it too.

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:54

      So let me get this if you take stuff from your employer/company without their consent and they want it back after realising you took it they being childish. ROFLAO!!!!!!

      ManOTMoment - 2011-07-01 10:59

      What do you expect them to do they not suing him for money they suing him to just return to camera

      Daemos1 - 2011-07-01 14:06

      If I were NASA I'd want my camera back too, it's a peice of history

      PDP - 2011-09-06 11:16

      @ManOTMoment, why didn't they ask for it's return 40 years ago? Surely if it is 1 of only 2 they would've realised if it was stolen?

  • TurboChris - 2011-07-01 10:58

    If they let this one slide how many more memorabilia will make it's way for sale at public auctions, it's not about the camera or money but rather a precedent that will be set.

  • steve.hand - 2011-07-01 11:29

    I would not care about this unless the camera had some undisclosed film in it. I'm sure it doesnt. why are nasa so pissed? Well its their property right? If they indeed did give it to him as a gift and he can proove it then they must chillax. I would also sell it. WTF am I going to do with a 40 year old camera with all todays modern technology. Sure you can put it on a pedestal but its JUST a camera a moon rock would be more intersting.

  • GSE - 2011-07-01 12:52

    They make it an issue because there might be film in it that shows they staged the whole thing, or there is aliens on the moon or maybe the camera can be analysed and proven to never have been to the moon at all.

  • ANCYL Leader - 2011-07-01 16:27

    This is not about the money! It is about NASA discrediting the man who tells the whole world about the ET's he has seen while working for NASA.

      Mad Dog - 2011-07-01 17:42

      This astronaught reminds me of Malema!

  • Mad Dog - 2011-07-01 17:33

    I have a web site selling my autographed picture. Any takers? R100.oo for 10.

      PDP - 2011-09-06 11:18

      Don't you have an old Kodak to go with it?

  • RaveWolf - 2011-09-06 12:52

    Well! Consider the following IQ Measurments: Taken From ( (These might have changed slightly in a few years but does give a general idea anyway) 115-124 - Above average (e.g., university students) 125-134 - Gifted (e.g., post-graduate students) 135-144 - Highly gifted (e.g., intellectuals) 145-154 - Genius (e.g., professors) 155-164 - Genius (e.g., Nobel Prize winners) 165-179 - High genius 180-200 - Highest genius >200 - "Unmeasurable genius" Ok! Now according to NASA the Astronauts had an IQ ranging from 130-145. Now with this in mind... Is Edgar Mitchell really dumb enough to "Steal" a camera from "NASA" and put it on Auction fully titled? ... I quote from paragraph 4 Above... "The item was labelled "Movie Camera from the Lunar Surface" and billed as one of two cameras from the Apollo 14's lunar module Antares. The lot description said the item came "directly from the collection" of pilot Edgar Mitchell and had a pre-sale estimate of $60 000 to $80 000, the suit said." That kind of stupidness doesn't even feature on the IQ Measurements above. Then again, we all have our moments. When I mess up... I always say "I can't be smart ALL the time. I have to give other people a chance too." What can I say... I have a good heart ;)

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