U.S. space agency NASA sues ex-astronaut

Friday, July 1, 2011

Edgar Mitchell's official NASA portrait, taken in 1970.
Image: NASA..

NASA, the space agency of the United States, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against former astronaut and sixth human to walk on the Moon Edgar Mitchell. NASA filed the lawsuit in a Miami federal court after learning of Mitchell's plans to auction off a camera that was used on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission.

Mitchell, 80, claims that he had permission from NASA to keep the camera, saying that astronauts of his era were permitted to keep mementos from their missions. He argues that had he not kept the camera, it would have been destroyed: "It was government throwaways, government junk."

According to the lawsuit, however, NASA claims that "All equipment and property used during NASA operations remains the property of NASA unless explicitly released or transferred to another party." NASA goes on to claim that there is no official record of the possession of the camera being transferred to Mitchell.

The camera, which Mitchell planned to sell because of financial problems, was expected to catch about US$60,000 to $80,000.

Mitchell, along with Commander Alan Shepard and Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, flew to the moon aboard the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, the third manned lunar landing. While Roosa orbited above, Shepard and Mitchell spent 33 hours on the surface of the Moon. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth humans to walk on the Moon, respectively.