Laura Cicco received a vial of moon dust from famed Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong almost 50 years ago. 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.
Last Wednesday, Cicco finally took action, filing a lawsuit in federal court and maintaining that Armstrong, who had been part of a "secretive" male pilot's club with her father, gifted her the supposed moon dust in the 1970s, at a time when he was teaching aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, with the Murray family also living in the city. The note, which has been authenticated, reads: "To Laura Ann Murray, Best of Luck-Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11".
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. The paperweight was seized, and in court, NASA declared "private persons can not own lunar material". "Lunar material is not contraband". "It is therefore essential that rigorous accountability and security procedures be followed by all persons who have access to lunar materials". Nevertheless, it's clearly pretty special to its owner and we'll have to wait and see if NASA decides to make a move.
An expert who tested and analysed the dust found that the sample "may have originated" from the moon's surface, court documents say. "She is the rightful and legal owner".
Though a NASA spokesman denied commenting on the case, the agency has been pretty vocal regarding the procession of lunar samples.
The federal agents believed the 74-year-old had stolen the artefacts (she was never charged and successfully sued the agents).
The alleged moon dust, which remains in the transparent glass beaker about the size of a small finger is being kept in a secure location in Kansas, according to McHugh.
Cicco's complaint cited a previous case involving an elderly California woman who accused Nasa officials of wrongfully seizing lunar mementos that her late husband, an Apollo programme engineer, had given her. Joann Davis said her husband left her two paperweights that contained a rice-grain-sized fragment of lunar material, or "moonrock", and a piece of the Apollo 11 heat shield.
"It means more for my memory of my father", she says.