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  Cooper's Project Mercury Helmet (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   Cooper's Project Mercury Helmet
gikev
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posted 03-06-2007 12:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Right now there are 144 watchers. I'm sure most, if not all, of the watchers just want to know how it all turns out. I would have bookmarked it myself.

cfreeze79
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posted 03-06-2007 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cfreeze79   Click Here to Email cfreeze79     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The question on my mind is: Having seen the several comparisons (which by no means constitute "smoking gun" evidence IMHO), are there any places that the photographic evidence disagree?

If it were more practical, I would suggest opening the matter to peer review. But we are making assumptions based on only a couple photos that back gikev's claims (who, no offense intended, but is clearly biased in the matter).

Just trying to think critically on this, that's all.

Lunar rock nut
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posted 03-06-2007 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar rock nut   Click Here to Email Lunar rock nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You did it now! I am having a flashback to jury duty... perhaps some comparative photos of the other helmet in question? Maybe...

gikev
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posted 03-06-2007 01:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No offense taken.

"But we are making assumptions based on only a couple photos..."

I have seen NO other photographic evidence to contradict my findings. Keeping in mind that the April 30 photo is the only clean, closeup photo I have seen of Cooper in this helmet. There seems to be precious few photos of him wearing it.
Anyone who uses the internet has access to the same photos as I do...

Adam S
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posted 03-06-2007 07:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Re: Similarities in edge markings on rubber seals.

Isn't it at least a good possibility that rubber rings made from the same mold would have similar markings?

This evidence seems quite inconclusive.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-06-2007 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
Isn't it at least a good possibility that rubber rings made from the same mold would have similar markings?
As in, all the Mercury helmets would have the same markings? If so, there should be photographs to illustrate that, right?

(Though isn't part of the speculation why this helmet is in private hands rather than in the Smithsonian because they redesigned the Mercury helmet for Mercury 9?)

gikev
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posted 03-06-2007 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adam, the first thing you notice when you examine this thing in person is that, despite the perceived hi-tech nature of space gear, it has a very handmade look to it. And, although it is beautifully made, it has flaws. The rubber seal, while most likely pulled from a mold has been hand cut-and not machined. So here and there you see cut marks and extra, untrimmed rubber flashing.

That's why I felt that matching the imperfections of the rubber was like matching a fingerprint. I would think it unlikely, or nearly impossible, to fabricate two identical rubber seals using this method.

cfreeze79
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posted 03-07-2007 02:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cfreeze79   Click Here to Email cfreeze79     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gikev:
That's why I felt that matching the imperfections of the rubber was like matching a fingerprint. I would think it unlikely, or nearly impossible, to fabricate two identical rubber seals using this method.
I would counter and argue that, based on my limited knowledge, the rubber was likely cut by the same person in a similar manner on multiple helmets. The same could be argued on the paint blob that, given the design of the helmet, thats where the paint would naturally collect.

I do not doubt a compelling arguement has been made to date, but I need more evidence to be convinced.

Or maybe I just watch too much CSI.

Matt T
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posted 03-07-2007 05:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess the concerns raised above would be best answered by examining photos of Cooper wearing the other mechanical visor helmet that Kev labeled as the late training helmet.

If the rubber seal can be distinguished clearly it would answer the speculation about the similarity or otherwise of the untrimmed rubber flashing taken from the same mold.

Scott
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posted 03-07-2007 08:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The photographic evidence is certainly very convincing to me, provided that the helmet in the vintage frame and image are indeed the flown helmet. I'm uncertain on the ownership issues. I do know that the Smithsonian has right of first refusal, but I don't know how that would apply regarding an apparent mistake on the government's part.

gikev
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posted 03-07-2007 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is the best closeup shot I could find of the backup/training unit. The irregularities I see around the rubber in no way resemble the flown helmet's patterns- it looks downright crude to me.

I've done the best I could with what I've had to work with to state my case and, at this point, am only engaging in this debate for the fun of it!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-07-2007 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just finished serving my civic duty as a juror in a Harris County (Houston, TX) criminal court (hence the lack of many updates to cS over the past few days). Since I had to be there anyway, I took the opportunity to speak to an attorney about theft of government property and the burden of proof. I was told that the burden would lie completely with the government, thus NASA would need to show that the helmet was still their property, requiring (I suppose) some type of inventory accounting. Of course, it would be just such a document that could possibly establish solid provenance for the helmet...

gikev
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posted 03-07-2007 11:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I met with the person in charge of space gear on my visit to the Air and Space Museum, she showed me what they have in their inventory.

She brought up the museum's data base on her computer. It showed a photo of each artifact with its corresponding identification numbers and current location. The helmet I had brought in was not there. As far as mercury helmets, there were no artifacts unaccounted for.

Adam S
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posted 03-08-2007 05:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You probably met with Amanda Young if this visit was recent, and she told you that as far as the Smithsonian was concerned, they had all of the flight suits (including helmets, gloves and boots) from the original Mercury flights either in their collection or on loan to affiliated museums...

I'll bet that she will say no more, for obvious reasons.

If your claim is correct (and I do not doubt that it very well might be correct), and you have the helmet worn on the last Mercury flight, then either NASA or The Smithsonian screwed up, and when was the last time you met a bureaucrat voluntarily willing to admit to making a mistake?

In any event, the Smithsonian is powerless to act were they to come to the conclusion that they have the wrong helmet on Cooper's suit. If any action were to be taken, it would have to be taken by NASA, and I have no doubt that they would act to recover the helmet were they to become convinced that such a treasure had escaped them...

I also don't blame you for trying to cash in on this if your claim is correct... who wouldn't? (Well maybe someone so rich that $300,000 meant nothing to them.)

The fact remains however, that if your claim is correct, the helmet truly does belong in the Smithsonian, and they would owe you big time if you brought it to NASA for verification. For what its worth, the right thing for you to do IMHO, would be to contact the right people at NASA, and let them examine the helmet.

If it is the helmet that flew on the last Mercury flight, I'm sure they would very appreciative, and since the Smithsonian has far more (un-flown) hardware like this than they need for their exhibits, I believe that some sort of suitable trade would be offered to you in exchange for the helmet.

Having your name on a plaque might not be as attractive as having the $300,000, however you exposed yourself to that possibility when you tried to sell it in such a public forum.

Who knows... they might even give you a helmet and a pair of gloves.

gikev
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posted 03-08-2007 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adam, yes, I met with Amanda, and I had a very enjoyable visit.

My comments on this thread and on eBay were never meant to embarrass anyone at NASA or NASM or to call into question the policies or practices of those two organizations.

I see myself in a situation similar to the person who buys a painting at a yard sale only to find out later that an original hand written copy of the Gettysburg Address has been hidden in the frame. What should that individual do? What would you do?

As for your idea about "trading" for something in the museum collection-
I would be shocked and diappointed in any museum that would engage in anything that silly.

gikev
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posted 03-08-2007 08:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Please refer to the fourth reply posted by John Fongheiser ("Space1") at the beginning of this thread.

It sounds like a plausible explanation to me -- and nobody posted an opposing position.

His scenario would tend to make sense -- taking into account the fast paced development, at that time, of the space program.

It seems to me that, through no one's fault, this particular article just fell through the cracks.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-08-2007 08:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gikev:
As for your idea about "trading" for something in the museum collection - I would be shocked and disappointed in any museum that would engage in anything that silly.
In fact, most museums have policies that allow for the trading of artifacts in order to improve upon their primary collections. From the Smithsonian:
Museum collections cannot remain static, existing solely as mausoleums, or, in the case of the Smithsonian, as the "Nation's Attic." As a general rule, objects and specimens are accepted for Smithsonian collections only when there is good faith intention to accession and to maintain the material in perpetuity on behalf of the public. Responsible acquisition of objects and specimens is preceded by thoughtful review, evaluation, and, if necessary, disposal of existing collections.

Deaccessioning is the process used to record the removal of an accession from the collection. Deaccessions occur because, despite conservation efforts, some objects deteriorate beyond usefulness; others are found to be redundant; others do not relate to the mission of the museum and, therefore, are judged to be better placed elsewhere; and others are selected for research or public education. Methods of disposal include transfer, donation, exchange, repatriation, sale, and destruction. In some cases the purpose of the deaccession and the method of disposal are the same, i.e., lost or stolen, died, escaped, and inventory reconciliation.

The method of disposition is generally affected by the nature of the collection: natural history museums tend to favor exchanges with other educational institutions while art museums rely on the marketplace to acquire and dispose objects. Deaccessioning procedures are designed to insure thoughtful, well-documented consideration of each proposed disposition in the context of the best long-term interest of the museum, the general public, and the object or specimen.To relinquish physical custody, legal title, and management control of an object or specimen. Disposals are categorized by the method used to relinquish custody and title to an object or specimen.

Among the methods of deaccession (or disposal) listed by the SI are:
Exchange
To dispose of an object in return for an object of equal value. If the values of the exchanged objects are unequal, a combination of disposal methods may apply.

Sale
To dispose of an object or specimen in return for payment of money or its equivalent.

The National Air and Space Museum currently employs exchange as a means of deaccession, per the website linked above.

space1
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posted 03-08-2007 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
If any action were to be taken, it would have to be taken by NASA, and I have no doubt that they would act to recover the helmet were they to become convinced that such a treasure had escaped them...
Once the government sells its surplus, title to the property transfers to the buyer. If the government wants it back they would have to pay fair market value for it.

An old surplus dealer I knew told the story of how the government sold dozens of aircraft engines to him at a fraction of their purchase value. Some years later the government decided it needed the engines after all. They had to pay him market value for the engines, and he was a happy fellow indeed.

gikev deserves the fruits of his labor in tracing the history of this artifact and preserving it for the future. I have no doubt that some other flown artifacts have not been so fortunate and have become landfill or worse.

------------------
John Fongheiser
President
Historic Space Systems, http://www.space1.com

Adam S
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posted 03-08-2007 09:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
John's remarks above would only apply if they "sold" the helmet. If it slipped out the back door so to speak, as many bits and pieces (including Grissom's suit) did, then I suspect they would still own it, and could simply confiscate it if they wanted to.

In response to gikev's previous post:

I wasn't implying that you meant to embarrass them, but rather that they might be embarrassed by their own mistake, had it been theirs to make. Doubtful, as they would tend to accept items from NASA as being what NASA described them to be. Why after all would The Smithsonian ask NASA a question like 'Are you sure that this item is really the one that flew on the mission?"

I also disagree with John's post which postulated that the Smithsonian might have decided that Gordon Cooper's actual Mercury helmet from the mission was something that they didn't need when it was offered to them by NASA. If your helmet is the one that flew, clearly the complete suit that NASA gave the Smithsonian had the wrong helmet on it and The Smithsonian would have had no reason at the time to question it's identity.

NASA did dispose of excess inventory in various ways from time to time, but I strongly doubt that any of the early (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo) suits, gloves, helmets and boots left NASA as part of any such sales.

I know for a fact that there are a few suits, boots, gloves, helmets and other assorted bits and pieces from the early NASA programs that did wind up in private hands, and the stories around some of them are quite interesting. I suspect that most of the artifacts in private hands, probably left NASA through the astronauts themselves. Some items were given by NASA to the military. Did the dealer who you bought the helmet from ever disclose how he happened to acquire it?

As to your statement:

"As for your idea about "trading" for something in the museum collection - I would be shocked and disappointed in any museum that would engage in anything that silly."

Clearly you have not had many dealings with museums.

Museums trade items all the time. Frequently they get items bequeathed to them that are similar to or duplicates of items already on display. In such cases they gladly trade items that are excess to their needs for items that they need for their exhibits.

In the case of the space-suit collection at the Smithsonian, they have far more (un-flown) suits that are not on display than are needed for their exhibitions, all of which take up space, and eat up budget dollars for preservation work that is in scarce supply. While the Smithsonian is part of the federal government, and while they probably have a bit more red tape and paperwork to go through than most museums to dispose of and acquire items, I'd be very surprised if they wouldn't do whatever was necessary to get such a priceless artifact into their collection if indeed your helmet is the one that flew the final Mercury mission.

Having raised the question through your eBay auction and this forum, I think you are obligated now to see this through to its logical conclusion, and find out for sure if your helmet's identity is as claimed. I only hope that NASA's records are both complete and accessible enough to make a final determination. There's a chance that they are not, and that we will never know for sure, and that would be sad.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-08-2007 09:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
If it slipped out the back door so to speak, as many bits and pieces (including Grissom's suit) did, then I suspect they would still own it, and could simply confiscate it if they wanted to.
Grissom's suit did not slip out the back door; it was loaned to Grissom for a presentation to his children's classmates, for which paperwork was filed.

Adam S
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posted 03-08-2007 09:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
T'was only a figure of speech! I simply meant that it hadn't been formally "deaccessed" (sold).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-08-2007 09:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
Why after all would the Smithsonian ask NASA a question like "Are you were sure that this item is really the one that flew on the mission?"
Because that is exactly what they do ask...

The historians and curators who work for the National Air and Space Museum research the artifacts they receive carefully and would never just take anyone's word for it, so to speak. I experienced this first hand as I facilitated the donation of a spacesuit now in the NASM's collection. I will not go into details but the museum does indeed question the artifacts they receive, regardless the source. I doubt embarrassment has anything to do with any decision, or lack thereof. Its far more likely that more time and study is needed.

quote:
NASA did dispose of excess inventory in various ways from time to time, but I strongly doubt that any of the early (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo) suits, gloves, helmets and boots left NASA as part of any such sales...
Spacesuit components such as you list did, both from ILC and NASA.
quote:
I suspect that most of the artifacts in private hands, probably left NASA through the astronauts themselves.
Many artifacts do originate from the astronauts but other than their spacesuit emblems and components that were intended to be discarded on the lunar surface (e.g. their PLSS), the astronauts did not retain spacesuit equipment.

Lunar rock nut
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posted 03-08-2007 09:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar rock nut   Click Here to Email Lunar rock nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Museums do trade. As I am also a meteorite collector. I have a specimen in my collection I purchased from a dealer, that was aquired by him through a trade with the Smithsonian. the rare Weatherford Oklahoma fall. As far as a trade by you, settle for nothing less than the other Helmet in question...

Adam S
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posted 03-08-2007 10:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think Mr. Pearlman's most recent comment is absurd.

Surely museums question the provenance of items they acquire, but when NASA gave a "flown" space suit to the Smithsonian, I strongly doubt that anyone at the Smithsonian would have asked NASA "Are you sure you're giving us the right one?"

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-08-2007 10:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
Surely museums question the provenance of items they acquire, but when NASA gave a "flown" space suit to the Smithsonian, I strongly doubt that anyone at the Smithsonian would have asked NASA "Are you sure you're giving us the right one?"
There's no point in speculating; I will inquire with them tomorrow morning.

davidcwagner
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posted 03-08-2007 11:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for davidcwagner   Click Here to Email davidcwagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does any Statute of Limitations apply? Just curious.

gikev
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posted 03-08-2007 11:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gikev   Click Here to Email gikev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, my apologies to all - I stand corrected. Some how it seemed ridiculous to me to think that a national historic museum would do business with a little guy...

Well, thanks for straightening me out. I will certainly be looking into this ASAP.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-08-2007 11:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by davidcwagner:
Does any Statute of Limitations apply? Just curious.
There is no statute of limitations on the theft of government property but as mentioned earlier, the burden of proof would lie with the government to prove that the artifact was stolen from their inventory...

space1
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posted 03-09-2007 04:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gikev:
Some how it seemed ridiculous to me to think that a national historic museum would do business with a little guy...
No need to feel intimidated if you want to deal with a museum like the Smithsonian. After all any big institution is made up of a lot of little guys. And your extensive research on, and care of, this artifact put you a notch above the average little guy.

Adam S
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posted 03-09-2007 12:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I disagree with Mr. Pearlman's assessment above:
quote:
There is no statute of limitations on the theft of government property but as mentioned earlier, the burden of proof would lie with the government to prove that the artifact was stolen from their inventory...
If NASA has records of all of it's sales, and the allegedly "stolen" item is not on those lists, then NASA still owns it. If so, they could simply claim it as their property, and the burden of proof would rest with the other party to prove legal ownership. Absent his or her ability to provide such proof, the courts would rule in favor of NASA.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-09-2007 12:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
I disagree with Mr. Pearlman's assessment above.
That was not the opinion of the attorney I consulted, but seeing as though I am not a lawyer, I am not in the position to debate.

Adam S
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posted 03-09-2007 01:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Consider this analogy:

Your home is robbed, and your wedding photo in a sterling silver frame is stolen.

The crook is caught with the framed photo in his possession.

Is it up to you to prove it was stolen, or is it up to the thief to prove that he came by it legally?

Lawyers frequently get confused between the law and common sense, 2 things which frequently have no relationship whatsoever.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-09-2007 01:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can state the following as a recent juror under the same instructions: In a criminal court proceeding, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. The prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge(s) against the defendant are valid. The defendant can choose to offer a defense but is not obligated to do so. The lack of a defense is not a legal consideration when it comes to deciding if the defendant is guilty.

Matt T
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posted 03-09-2007 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The wedding photo analogy doesn't really apply here. Not unless you have a multitude of silver-framed wedding photos, some of which you throw in the trash or return to the manufacturer. In that circumstance theft could not be proved simply by the presence of one of your framed photos outside your home.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-09-2007 06:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
There's no point in speculating; I will inquire with them tomorrow morning.
I learned today that while NASA's paperwork is initially trusted, the Smithsonian will at times perform its own research and if questions arise, it will and has looked past what NASA has said of the item.

As a result, in at least a couple of instances the Smithsonian has found that NASA did indeed make mistakes when labeling artifacts. Its not something that the museum staff takes lightly and it requires a good deal of time and evidence for the museum to choose to override the NASA documentation accompanying the artifact's accession.

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posted 03-09-2007 11:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Re: Legalities of ownership

The analogy to a criminal prosecution above is not valid. A civil suit to recover property is totally different. Criminal rules of procedure do not apply here.

Art looted by the Nazis in the 1940's is still being returned to the descendants of the rightful owners today, even though, in many cases, it may have changed hands many times in seemingly legitimate transactions since the original theft.

The fact that the current owner may have bought it in good faith from someone whom he assumed had valid title to the item is irrelevant.

Unless NASA sold or "gifted" the item to someone in a transaction for which records can be produced, then NASA still owns it.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-10-2007 12:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adam S:
The analogy to a criminal prosecution above is not valid. A civil suit to recover property is totally different. Criminal rules of procedure do not apply here.
I believe that government property is treated separately by the law than is private property. Per the FBI, Title 18, United States Code, Section 641 and 2114, makes it illegal to steal or embezzle any government property or to commit robbery of government property.

Quoting the U.S. Attorney's Manual:

One of the principal responsibilities of the federal criminal law is the protection of government property. The property holdings of the United States, its departments and agencies are extensive and include both real and personal property in this country and abroad. In order for the Federal government to perform the wide range of duties assigned to it by law, it must have ready access to these properties and resources. Therefore it is very important that these properties be protected from any theft, misuse or misappropriation.

Supervisory authority for prosecutions involving most crimes against government property rests with the Office of Enforcement Operations of the Criminal Division.

Thus, unless I am misunderstanding what is written, theft of government property would result in a criminal, rather than civil federal charges.

The USAM includes commentary on the burden of proof:

...proof of government ownership of stolen property can rest entirely on circumstantial evidence
Thus Adam may be correct in regards to the necessity of a defense in light of the lack of proof required for prosecution of theft of government property charges.

Adam S
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posted 03-10-2007 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Adam S   Click Here to Email Adam S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One must remember that in a case like this, nobody is accusing the current owner of theft. Gikev states that he bought the helmet with the understanding that it had not flown. Since we all know there are several bits and pieces of suits used in testing & training in private ownership, Gikev had no reason, upon purchase, to believe it was the helmet flown in the last Mercury mission. The dealer who he bought it from, most likely thought it to be an "un-flown" item as well.

The history of the item since it left NASA is presumed to be a mystery here. Were a fight over it's ownership ever to come to a trial, counsel for the government in this case would depose the "dealer" who Gikev got it from in an attempt to discover who the dealer got it from, and he would then depose that person if he or she were still alive and could be found. This discovery process would continue as far back as possible.

In cases where so much time has passed since the item left the original owner's (NASA's) possession however, it's often the case that the entire provenance of the item cannot be factually established.

Were the government to confiscate the helmet, Gikev might not have any legal recourse against the dealer here as he has stated from the beginning that the dealer he bought it from claimed it to have been used in training only. The dealer would then be presumed to have acquired it in a "good faith" transaction with no suspicion that it had either been "stolen" or had simply "gone missing" under some mysterious circumstances the details of which are probably forever lost.

I've had recent personal experience with this process, in trying to establish the provenance of some hardware I had purchased about 20 years ago from the early days of the Gemini program. In this case, after speaking with Amanda Young at The Smithsonian, I approached NASA in an effort to find out if I had legal title to these items. The person at NASA whom Ms Young directed me to was extremely cooperative, and tried to find the records relating to the manner in which the items left NASA's possession. He was ultimately however unable to find any records pertaining to those items, and told me that the records relating to early hardware are unfortunately simply lost or incomplete in some cases.

From my dealings with these people, I can say with certainty that they are all very nice folks whose primary motivation is the preservation of the accurate history of our space program. When I first discussed the history of my Gemini items with Ms. Young's predecessor at The Smithsonian, Lillian Kozloski, she was very pleased just to know where the hardware I had purchased was, as the location of same was listed as being "unknown" in her rather complete records of all such hardware originally made for and used by NASA. When I originally acquired these Gemini items a part on one of them was broken. Ms Kozloski referred me to the director of one of their "affiliated" museums, The Kansas Cosmosphere, for repair. Fortunately for me, the folks in Kansas had acquired a stockpile of NOS (New Old Stock) spare parts from NASA pertaining to artifacts from that era, and they graciously replaced the broken piece for me with an authentic new one, only charging me a modest fee for the time & labor involved, & nothing for the piece itself.

Another good source for information on these items, and perhaps the best source available for any preservation or restoration work needed on early NASA hardware in private hands, is the current director of the artifacts and restoration workshop at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson KS. Jim Remar is the man in charge now, and he is both extremely knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with.


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