NASA was perturbed when Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell auctioned his checklist from the ill-fated mission through Dallas-based Heritage Auctions back in December. So perturbed, in fact, that NASA general counsel asked the auctioneer to halt the nearly $400,000 sale so that proof of ownership could be determined.
The checklist, along with Al Shepard's Apollo 14 glove and Rusty Schweickart's Apollo 9 hand controller, are locked away in Heritage's vault for now. NASA sued Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell for trying to hawk a camera he used on the moon. The lines of ownership here are apparently fuzzy. Historically, NASA has allowed astronauts to retain artifacts that will never see further use. Question is, should they be allowed to sell space relics we bought? Both sides have valid arguments. Lovell put his ass on the line. NASA (taxpayers) paid his fare. NASA and the astronauts, it seems, are at an impasse for the moment.
But U.S. Representative Ralph Hall of Rockwall, and Representative Eddie Bernice-Johnson of Dallas won't stand for it.
They've introduced a bill, currently before the U.S. House science, space and technology committee Hall chairs, to confer ownership of "any expendable item" from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Apollo-Suyez test project to the astronauts who used them. That includes "personal logs, checklists, flight manuals, prototype and proof test articles used in training and disposable flight hardware salvaged from jettisoned lunar modules." It does not include moon rocks. Sorry, deep-pocketed space nerds.
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Today, we salute these Texas lawmakers for defending astronauts' rights to sell their space gloves, piss tubes and moon boots.