Woman Sues NASA to Keep a Vial of Moon Dust Gifted To Her by Neil Armstrong
According to official NASA policy, anything brought to Earth from the surface of the Moon is immediately the property of the United States government, who is authorized to hand out these "lunar samples" accordingly.
That seems harsh, but it's never been that much of a problem before, since only 12 people have walked on the Moon and likely turned over most of their lunar samples to NASA upon returning to Earth. But not all of it: Neil Armstrong apparently held onto some moon dust, and apparently gave a small vial of the stuff to the young daughter of one of his friends in the 1970s.
Decades later, the woman who received that moon dust, Laura Murray Cicco, has found the old vial and has no plans to hand that priceless gift over to NASA. Cicco has filed a lawsuit against the space agency to preemptively stop any attempts by NASA to claim the vial is their own property, since NASA does have a history of going after unauthorized lunar samples even if they've never set their sights on this vial just yet.
According to Cicco, her father and Armstrong were both members of a secretive and absurdly-titled club for aviators called the "Quiet Birdmen", as her dad Tom Murray was a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps. It was through this club that Armstrong passed along the present to Cicco, and since Armstrong was indeed a very quiet birdman, he kept this gift a secret from NASA.
The moon dust came with a signed note from Armstrong reading "To Laura Ann Murray - Best of luck - Neil Armstrong Apollo 11." According to Cicco's attorney, Christopher McHugh, the note's been analyzed by a handwriting expert who vouched for its authenticity, but analyses of the moon dust itself has been more troublesome.
One expert agreed it may be of lunar origin, while another expert found a similar composition to Earth dust, but clarified that some Earth dust could be mixed in and refused to rule out a lunar origin. McHugh gave the following statement to the Washington Post, explaining why they're suing NASA before they can make an attempt to seize Cicco's lunar sample:
Thus far, NASA has refused to comment on the impending case, which is expected. We'll just have to see where things go from here - with more people potentially returning to the Moon in the future, this case could set an important precedent for lunar souvenirs that future astronauts bring back home.