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NASA seeks dismissal of moon dust lawsuit filed in Kansas

September 21, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — NASA seeks to dismiss a federal lawsuit by a woman who thinks it will seize a vial of moon dust she claims was a gift to her from astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Laura Cicco filed the case in June in Kansas asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that she owns the lunar dust she received as a 10-year-old girl from Armstrong, who was a friend of her father’s. She cites cases in the past where NASA has seized similar moon-related artifacts because it contends the government owns all lunar material, The Kansas City Star reported.

The space agency filed a motion in late August to dismiss the lawsuit on various legal grounds, contending that it’s a hypothetical issue because the agency has not tried to confiscate the artifact, which is being kept in a secret location in Kansas.

In a response this week, Cicco’s attorney, Christopher McHugh, said NASA could officially say it has no interest in the artifact and the lawsuit would end.

“It appears to be the Government’s position that the threat to Mrs. Cicco is not ‘immediate or real’ enough ... until NASA is at her doorstep with a warrant,” he wrote in response.

NASA also argued that the lawsuit should not have been filed in Kansas because none of the events involved occurred in the state.

“The events giving rise to the claim in this case occurred on the moon,” McHugh wrote. “While venue there does have its appeal, I am going to need a ride.”

Although Cicco lives in Tennessee, the lawsuit was filed in Kansas because its federal court has experience with lunar material.

In 2005, the former director of the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Max Ary, was convicted of selling museum property for his personal gain. Space memorabilia seized by the federal government included a bag Armstrong used to collect dust on the moon. That bag and other memorabilia were mistakenly put up for auction before they were seized by NASA. The attorney who bought the memorabilia at auction sued and it went to federal court in Wichita and NASA lost. The attorney last year resold the bag at auction for $1.8 million.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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