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  Is it legal to own space shuttle thermal tiles?

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Author Topic:   Is it legal to own space shuttle thermal tiles?
Tile Collector
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posted 07-08-2004 02:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tile Collector   Click Here to Email Tile Collector     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been reading some of the stickies and posts regarding legalities of possessing tiles. What is the legal issue of acquiring or owning whole flown tiles from the maiden voyage of the Columbia? Or for that matter any whole flown tile?

The tiles in question have obviously been flown due to the plasma burns and impacts on the leading edges.

If these tiles are illegal to own what would be the possibility of donating them to an aerospace museum?

Or would it be best to just stay away from the whole mess or drop them into a trashcan?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-08-2004 06:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you haven't already done so, you might find some answers reading Is it legal to privately own Space Shuttle tiles?, an essay by Joseph Richard Gutheinz, Jr, J.D., retired NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Senior Special Agent.

Beyond that, the two major issues (to my knowledge) involving the acquisition of tiles are related to chain of ownership and export restrictions.

The latter concerns a State Department regulation that carbon-carbon material used specifically as heat shield for missiles or rockets (of which the space shuttle classifies) may not be exported outside the U.S. (For more information, see U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Part 121 (The United States Munitions List), Category IV (Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs and Mines), Sec. 121.16 (Missile Technology Control Regime Annex)).

In regards to the earlier, like all government property, if the transfer of the tiles from public (government) to private hands cannot be documented, then ownership can be called into question. Sufficient documentation might include scrap tags, official presentation certificates and/or bill of sales from government-run auctions.

To my knowledge, NASA ceased selling or gifting their spent shuttle tiles some time ago, citing health concerns related to exposure to the material.

Of course, any such tiles from the debris of STS-51L or STS-107 are restricted from private ownership, as is any recovered component of the two orbiters, as NASA still claims title to both vehicles.

quote:
Originally posted by Tile Collector:
If these tiles are illegal to own what would be the possibility of donating them to an aerospace museum? Or would it be best to just stay away from the whole mess or drop them into a trashcan?
I would never advocate discarding with or destroying an artifact. At the least, you could contact your local NASA Office of the Inspector General office and surrender your tiles if you feel they may not have been obtained legally. In regards to donating them to a museum, the institutions that I have worked with usually require the donation to be accompanied by a written statement declaring you have the right to make such a donation (a.k.a. title to the item) but it would be a better solution then tossing them in the trash.

Lastly, I should probably qualify this reply by saying I am not a lawyer, nor do I represent NASA or any other government agency that may or may not hold a stake or claim against heat shield tiles and therefore the advice offered is by way of observation and study of the present legal environment but may not account for all cases or governing laws.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 04-20-2006 09:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Despite reading the article on cS, I'm still confused as to whether or not it's legal (for a U.S. citizen) to own a shuttle tile, outside of presentation pieces such as the ones from STS-1 and STS-6. Would it be marked as "SCRAP" make a difference or not? What if there is no documentation and the company from where it was obtained is no longer in business?

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-20-2006 10:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is my understanding that so long as the tile was originally obtained legally, then it is legal for a U.S. resident to own. Like anything that was once government property, the question of legality stems from whether it was disposed through proper channels. If a gray area exists, it is where a lack evidence exists to show that the legal process for deaccession was followed. A "SCRAP" marking is certainly helpful but its not as strong as a copy of the NASA paperwork or a receipt for its purchase.

Tangential to this discussion are the laws governing the exportation of spacecraft and missile components, which preclude Space Shuttle heat shield material from being shipped to individuals outside the U.S.

fantasticstuff
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posted 05-03-2009 04:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fantasticstuff   Click Here to Email fantasticstuff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have read so many contradictory pieces on the right to own and/or sell a complete shuttle heat shield tile. As I understand it, the tile in question is black, from approximately 1990-92 (not a disaster tile), has been in space. What is the legality of this piece of shuttle history?

Editor's note: Threads merged.

fantasticstuff
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posted 05-03-2009 05:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fantasticstuff   Click Here to Email fantasticstuff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are a couple twists to this issue. What if the tile was given, as in a gift of appreciation for work well done say in a consulting role, by an NASA employee or "supplier" employee to someone? And, this gift did not come with documentation as to flown...only verbally expressed? What if someone bought this tile from its "owner" with the thought of reselling or auctioning it?

Do the alphanumerics indicate the tiles history? Is that searchable somewhere?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-03-2009 05:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA employees do not have the legal ability to just give items away and shuttle tiles are NASA property, which means that before any contractor came into possession of a flown tile, it needed to be deaccessed by the space agency.

In either case, a paper trail should have been created.

Of course, if you don't have that paperwork (which I would assume is the case, otherwise you wouldn't be asking such questions) then the likelihood of finding those documents now is less than likely.

Tile markings generally denote the location on the orbiter where they are to be (or are) installed. They do not indicate flight history or when they were removed.

There's paperwork that tracks that information, but again, if you don't already have that, I don't know of a method to get it.

My suggestion would be to trace the path of the tile as best you can. Talk to the person who you received it from and get the details of how it came into his/her possession. At the least, you need to get a letter from the previous owner stating the tile's history as best s/he knows it.

fantasticstuff
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posted 05-03-2009 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fantasticstuff   Click Here to Email fantasticstuff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As I understand it, it was from STS-55 (Columbia) and was verbally stated as deaccessed when it was handed over as a "Thank You" in November '93.

Since there is no paperwork supporting the how, when, and why... I'm assuming it should either go back or become a very light yet interesting paperweight.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 05-04-2009 03:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The argument about the tiles consituting some sort of security risk becomes more spurious by the day. Far worse technology transfers have had blind eyes turned to them.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 05-04-2009 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The ITAR restrictions remain very relevant in this instance. Consider that TPS technology is also used to protect ballistic missile warheads during reentry (the initial invention of AVCOAT ablator was triggered not by Project Apollo but by RV protection in the 50's). Rouge regimes in Iran and NK dont need a further "hand-up" to accelerate their development of weaponized nuclear capability.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 05-05-2009 06:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Which begs the question: what's the difference between a Buran tile (freely available on the market) and a shuttle tile?

garymilgrom
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posted 05-05-2009 06:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the book Energia-Buran by Bart Hendrickx and Bert Vis they say the Soviet tiles were more effective at rejecting heat. Buran tiles I've seen seem thicker (the black covering) and denser than Shuttle tiles. (By the way, this is a great book.)

spaceman
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posted 01-31-2011 03:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman   Click Here to Email spaceman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a collector in the U.K. I really would like to own a space shuttle tile. A brief look on eBay tonight turned up 19 tiles in one form or another - mostly shuttle.

Now that NASA is also gifting tiles to institutions world wide (I noticed a complete one in the London Science Museum on Saturday) have the rules changed?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-31-2011 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
U.S. State Department export restrictions still apply. As noted under the NASA Offers Space Shuttle Tiles To Schools And Universities thread...
The Space Shuttle is captured under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) categories IV and XV, which include all specifically designed or modified systems or subsystems, components, parts, accessories, attachments, and associated equipment for the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle Thermal Protection System, including the tiles, is controlled for export purposes under the ITAR. A license from the Department of State is required to transfer the tiles to a foreign person either inside or outside the United states. Any tiles transferred to a U.S. person shall be accompanied by a notice indicating to the recipient the export control classification, license requirements to transfer the tiles to a foreign person, and requirement to comply with U.S. export control laws and regulations.
If tiles have been provided to international museums, it has been done by obtaining a license from the State Department first.

Spacepsycho
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posted 01-31-2011 07:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacepsycho   Click Here to Email Spacepsycho     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't understand why some people are so obsessed about owning a shuttle tile, there are thousands of flown and unflown tiles in the public's hands, some obtained as scrap, some from dumpsters, some as presentation pieces and others taken by NASA and contractor workers since the 70's.

As long as you don't export them, don't worry about anyone breaking down your door at 6 a.m. with a search warrant.

Look at all of the Apollo parts and pieces that were taken home by all of the workers when the program was cancelled. There is so much stuff out there without paperwork and from a pragmatic point of view nobody from NASA or the govt cares about it.

As long as your part wasn't stolen from a museum, NASA's collection or is exported, enjoy your tile and don't freak out about it.

Kocmoc
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posted 02-03-2011 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kocmoc   Click Here to Email Kocmoc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The one concern that I have for owners is the eventual decay of the structure. These tiles are essentially glass and as the deteriorate, the glass particles fly free. As the granddaughter of a silicosis sufferer, I would recommend that the tiles be stored in a sealed container.

------------------
Cathleen S. Lewis

Greggy_D
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posted 02-03-2011 04:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kocmoc:
I would recommend that the tiles be stored in a sealed container.
I keep mine in sealed Ziploc bags.

Spacepsycho
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posted 02-03-2011 04:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacepsycho   Click Here to Email Spacepsycho     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kocmoc:
The one concern that I have for owners is the eventual decay of the structure.
Considering the tiles are made from an inorganic material, I'm curious how the shuttle tiles decay?

I know the white silica material can become airborne if it's touched and obviously the loose fibers could be inhaled or become stuck in someones skin, but are you saying the silica breaks down?

When I display tiles at school presentations, they're sealed in bags or in a plexiglass cube.

Fezman92
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posted 02-03-2011 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The only time I have seen a shuttle tile is at NASA HQ's library. They have it just lying on a shelf and with their permission, you could pick it up.

SpaceAholic
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posted 02-03-2011 08:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ms Lewis' council is prudent; according to NASA's Shuttle Tile Disposition Plan, which includes recommended handling guidance:
Are Shuttle tiles considered hazardous?

The silica material in Shuttle tiles is not classified as hazardous either by Federal SARA or CERCLA standards. It is not material regulated by the EPA as hazardous waste, nor is it considered hazardous material for transport. However, the silica fiber material is listed in at least the following states’ hazardous substances lists: CA, MA, MN, NJ and PA.

  • The silica insulation fiber Material Safety Data Sheet (IC: 1104, Attachment 1), states that the silica fiber diameters vary between 0.3 and 0.8 microns. The World Health Organization and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health classify fibers with diameters of less than 3 microns as respirable (able to be inhaled into the lower lung). The data sheet classifies dust from this product as a mechanical irritant, which means that it may cause temporary irritation or scratchiness of the throat and/or itching of the eyes and skin. The carcinogenicity of amorphous silica fibers is not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans. (International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)).
When not disturbed through breakage, division, drilling or other actions that might loosen fibers and make them airborne, the silicon in Shuttle tiles can be handled safely with the proper common protective mask and clothing (gloves and long sleeves). Material from the silica fiber layer should not be ingested. Touching it should be avoided: it may cause minor skin irritations or temporary irritation or redness in the eyes. Until more data is available, it is recommended that the material not be used for live demonstrations that involve placing the material over an flame. Shuttle tiles should be kept encapsulated in plastic wrapping and protected from breakage when transporting.
I would add, that the fact that something is not currently identified as carcinogenic or isn't flagged to cause silicosis or mesothelioma doesn't mean that determination won't change in the future.

Regarding the issue of whether the tiles should be available for public sale the document continues:

NASA has reviewed this option and concluded that it is preferable to dispose of the tiles through manners other than sale. Additionally, since there is no way to ensure that safe material handling information would accompany the secondary and follow-on sales that would certainly occur over time, NASA may be exposed to possible litigation if personal injuries result from mishandling or abusing tiles.

Greggy_D
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posted 02-03-2011 10:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA has reviewed this option and concluded that it is preferable to dispose of the tiles through manners other than sale.
But yet, they sell shuttle tile samples at KSC's gift shop. Seems contradictory.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-03-2011 10:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been curious about those packaged tile samples and I wonder if the difference may be that the material is "tile-like" but is not actual tile material (despite what may be claimed on the package).

MrSpace86
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posted 02-03-2011 11:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A good heat test would determine if they are really tiles or not...

Lunar rock nut
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posted 02-04-2011 06:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar rock nut   Click Here to Email Lunar rock nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MrSpace86:
A good heat test would determine if they are really tiles or not...
When it is glowing are you brave enough to touch it to find out? Ouch!

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