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  Spaceflori moon dust declared stolen from NASA (Page 3)

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Author Topic:   Spaceflori moon dust declared stolen from NASA
datkatz
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posted 07-25-2011 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for datkatz   Click Here to Email datkatz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
There is no reason to believe NASA had knowledge that Slezak left with the dust-stained tape.
There is absolutely no reason to believe they didn't.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is, given NASA's contention that they have never knowingly transferred lunar material to any individual other the lunar-dust stained patches and items presented and authorized for ownership by the astronauts.

fredtrav
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posted 07-25-2011 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman in 2003:
I don't like it when misinformation is being thrown around.

Florian bought the lunar dust he previously sold (note: he is no longer selling on the request, not order, of NASA) at an auction here in the US. To say Florian stole is a gross exaggeration of the truth.

Where are the attacks against the auction house who sold the dust? Or for that matter, where are the critics questioning the notable former NASA employee who consigned the dust for sale?

No time during that auction (to the best of my knowledge, and I was there) did the gallery represent any uncertainties about the legality of the dust sale. No time did they warn bidders that NASA might demand its return.

Where does the finger of blame really deserve to be pointed?

Let's face it, if indeed this lunar dust was stolen (prior to the auction) than NASA made a mistake with handling its own employee. Thirty years later, after a well publicized auction and a well publicized sale, the agency is looking for what? To add less than an inch of tape stained with lunar dust to its collection of 842 pounds of material?

If I sound upset, its because I am. At a time where there are much more serious concerns for NASA to be focusing its attention on, I am somewhat amazed we are even having this discussion.

Robert this was a post you made in 2003. A new member was attacking Florian for selling moondust. You were very eloquent in defense of him having the right to sell the dust.

Have you changed your mind on this.

Your comments now seem inconsistent with your comments in 2003.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 02:54 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 fredtrav:
Your comments now seem inconsistent with your comments in 2003.
You're right, they are, but to understand why, you need to reference my much more recent comments posted on June 24, 2011.
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
This admission by Slezak that he added the dust-stained tape to the montage himself does, at least in my opinion, add credence to the government's concern over the legality of the tape's ownership. Spaceflori and Spaceflori's subsequent customers made good faith purchases based on what was represented by Slezak as a presentation made to him. It is troubling to learn that wasn't the case.
My 2003 comments with regards to NASA and its handling of Slezak's dust-stained tape were based on, at best, incomplete and at worst, purposely misleading information. It wasn't until 2011 that it was made public that Slezak was not presented the tape as part of the original montage. Had Slezak been given the tape, as I and everyone else had been led to believe until last month, then I would have continued to feel Slezak was in the right.

As for Florian, my position has not changed. No where have I suggested that Spaceflori's sales were improper or that those who purchased samples from him were in violation of any law. Both Florian and his subsequent customers made good faith purchases based on the information presented to them by the auction house and in turn, Terry Slezak.

I would be equally upset today were someone to accuse Florian of stealing lunar material. I sadly can no longer say the same about Terry Slezak.

chet
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posted 07-25-2011 02:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
There is no reason to believe NASA had knowledge that Slezak left with the dust-stained tape.
But there IS reason to believe NASA had knowledge Slezak left with the tape. In the account I read of Slezak's comments on the matter, he said he was told to use tape to remove the dust from his hands. If NASA never requested that tape after he applied it to remove the dust (which seems likely, given that they weren't collecting, but disposing of, similar "incidental" lunar material) it would have been reasonable, not nefarious, for Slezak to have simply "pocketed" the tape-dust sample as a souvenir.

No, it was not "improper" for the U.S. Attorney to simply ask all the parties to cooperate to have the dust sample returned to NASA, but the characterizations (that the sample was stolen, that the "trail turned cold" after the sample "went missing" in 1969) sure were misleading, and (surprise, surprise) self-serving. (And who knows what the consignor was told to elicit such prompt cooperation; were there any improper tactics employed by the U.S. Attorney's Office?)

datkatz
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posted 07-25-2011 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for datkatz   Click Here to Email datkatz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But, according to your own statement, Robert, the new information is irrelevant. You stated:
Let's face it, if indeed this lunar dust was stolen (prior to the auction) than NASA made a mistake with handling its own employee. Thirty years later, after a well publicized auction and a well publicized sale, the agency is looking for what? To add less than an inch of tape stained with lunar dust to its collection of 842 pounds of material?
You had already considered — and accepted — that the material might have been stolen from NASA.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 03:08 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 chet:
...it would have been reasonable, not nefarious, for Slezak to have simply "pocketed" the tape-dust sample as a souvenir.
I disagree. The reasonable assumption would be that it would have been disposed of, if indeed it was to have been disposed of and not given over to the lunar receiving laboratory — a distinction, to the best of my knowledge, we don't know — and not pocketed as a souvenir.
quote:
...but the characterizations (that the sample was stolen, that the "trail turned cold" after the sample "went missing" in 1969) sure were misleading
Which is why I earlier wrote, "Let's not conflate press release-speak with reality..."

fredtrav
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posted 07-25-2011 03:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I sound upset, its because I am. At a time where there are much more serious concerns for NASA to be focusing its attention on, I am somewhat amazed we are even having this discussion.
I think this sums up what many members feel about this. Whoever, whether it is at NASA or at the US attorneys office, is behind this is wasting time and money. They are also upsetting some staunch supporters of the space program and perhaps causing worry to all who have a small piece of foil, tape, dust or other flown material in their collections.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 03:16 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 datkatz:
...the new information is irrelevant.
You're right: then and now, I feel/felt that, if the lunar dust was indeed stolen, than NASA made a mistake with handling its own employee.

And as already acknowledged on this thread, my response would be different had this case (what little there is of it) had not been about the auction house and consignor cooperating with the government. Nothing I said in 2003 is at odds with the government asking for cooperation to reclaim the lunar material.

datkatz
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posted 07-25-2011 03:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for datkatz   Click Here to Email datkatz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nothing but the statement I quoted! Perhaps you should read it again, and then Google "sarcasm."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 03:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, I questioned the wisdom of NASA pursuing the return of a one-inch piece of tape. And to a large part I still question that wisdom.

But there is a difference between pursuing that return by filing charges and asking for the cooperation of a single consignor. And I think it is unreasonable to suggest otherwise.

For the record, and I guess you'll have to take my word for this, I am much more personally troubled over the removal of the "Mag S" label and Aldrin's notes than I am the one inch piece of tape.

chet
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From: Beverly Hills, Calif.
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posted 07-25-2011 04:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was NASA unaware of the "Mag S" label, and Aldrin of the note he wrote at Tranquility Base? (Both were prominently displayed on the board presentation at the time it was auctioned in 2001).

Greggy_D
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posted 07-25-2011 04:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Cooperation" is a funny word when it comes to the Government. Did the Government apply any pressure or exert any veiled threats towards the auction house or consignor?

I'm not saying they did, but it would not surprise me at all.

datkatz
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posted 07-25-2011 04:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for datkatz   Click Here to Email datkatz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For some people, the Government just asking is pressure. I'm sure the widow felt that way.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sure, its press release-speak, so take it with the large grain of salt it merits, but this does not sound like a consignor under duress.
She had not been involved in its purchase and was unaware of its history or how it had been acquired by her late husband. Upon learning that the material had been stolen from NASA years earlier, she immediately and graciously agreed to relinquish it back to the American people.

chet
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posted 07-25-2011 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to what you've conveyed, Robert, the consignor didn't seem to be under duress, though it seems she was lied to by someone in the U.S. Attorney's Office (if she was indeed told the dust was originally stolen; it would have been a lie, since no such determination was ever made. If accurate, this account reveals the use of unethical tactics to get the consignor to turn over material she might have otherwise declined to).

SpaceAholic
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posted 07-25-2011 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Or if the bag was turned over to NAR for engineering tests (for example)...
Post flight components turned over to NAR remained government owned property with the expectation that it was to have been tracked and returned after testing.

fredtrav
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posted 07-25-2011 07:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did want to clarify something from an earlier post where I quoted Robert. Robert was defending Florian from an unjust attack by a new member regarding selling the moondust. The thread had started right after the Columbia disaster when a member was commenting on the greed of people rushing to sell mementos, autographs, etc. right after the disaster.

This new member started to rip into Florian for being "greedy" for selling the moondust presentations and Robert was responding that the selling of the moondust had nothing in common with profiting from the disaster. Florian was selling items he had purchased in good faith from a well advertised auction and there were no objections raised to the sale.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-25-2011 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for the clarification, Fred.
quote:
Originally posted by fredtrav:
The thread had started right after the Columbia disaster...
The post you quoted from was made on Feb. 3, 2003, just two days after the loss of Columbia. In hindsight, I let my emotions over the accident spill into my handling of other topics.

When I wrote that there were more important topics for we to be discussing, it was in direct reference to the loss, and had little to anything to do about prioritizing what cases NASA OIG investigated.

Schoner
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posted 07-26-2011 02:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Schoner   Click Here to Email Schoner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
She had not been involved in its purchase and was unaware of its history or how it had been acquired by her late husband. Upon learning that the material had been stolen from NASA years earlier, she immediately and graciously agreed to relinquish it back to the American people.
Smells like a duck, walks like a duck it is a duck... as the old saying goes.

So, if the Government Prosecutor says as NASA claims that it was "stolen years earlier" and that it is "illegal" which one of us in the same position as a widow who obviously did not know now her late husband acquired this item, would not "graciously agree to relinquish it back to the American people"?

Just look at the facts of the matter.

A U.S. Prosecutor, acting on the demand of a NASA official pulling the auction with such statements as "illegal" "stolen" "black market."

Then by a soft touch of hand of Big Government with the veiled yet feared threat of prosecution...

Which one of us would not "graciously agree to relinquish back to the American People" any said item... Be it Apollo 11 moon dust on a tiny swatch of tape or any other Apollo flown item?

All it takes is a bit of publicity making such bald faced statements of "illegality" "stolen" or "missing" to do the arm twisting to get us to "agree" to surrender it.

They can make such bald faced statements with any flown item, not officially released by NASA.

I hope now that Ed Mitchell wins his case to keep that DAC camera that he salvaged and stored in his personal flight bag from the Apollo 14 LEM before it was crashed to bits on the moon.

His case could have a bearing on any or all flown items, including this so called "stolen" Apollo 11 Slezak tape along with the other items that NASA obviously overlooked such as the Magazine S sticker and Aldrin's hand written note.

So many things that NASA let slip through their fingers years ago and into public domain...

Now they want them back,and all they have to do is convince a U.S. Prosecutor to act on their behalf using false claims as justification.

If only that widow said no...

Then that would have let the chips fly where they may have gone in the courts... Letting us all know where we stand.

moorouge
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posted 07-26-2011 03:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An unpopular, I suspect, thought crosses my mind about the sale of space related artifacts.

To what extent have collectors of 'flown' pieces of memorabilia brought the situation as discussed in this thread upon themselves?

With people prepared to spend thousands of dollars on articles which often have been obtained 'dishonestly' as defined in this thread, is it any wonder that NASA/US Government has decided that enough is enough? Might they not begin to think that such money is rightfully ours, not the vendors?

albatron
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posted 07-26-2011 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe I'm missing something here, but the word "stolen" is being thrown around quite a bit.

Has anyone proven he took the tape/dust with intent to STEAL it?

There are many factors here that may make it other than a theft per se.

fredtrav
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posted 07-26-2011 11:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess what I am concerned about is how this will affect the flown collectible market going forward. While I (unfortunately) do not own any kapton foil, moondust, tape etc, hopefully in the future I might be able to afford a piece or two. If this "request" to return the dust is a start to NASA trying to claim other object out there, will any more come up for sale. If I had a moondust presentation, I would be hesitant about selling it at an auction for fear the government might lay claim to it. If you own it and refuse to hand it over, what would they do next. Would they attempt to seize it. I know I could not afford the fees to fight such a seizure.

As Robert pointed out earlier in the thread, NASA had told employees collecting souvenirs was not allowed. This lays open any sale of flown kapton foil or other pieces that may come to market that was from a worker at the space center. All the Ken Havekotte pieces he obtained from workers and their estates could now be declared property of NASA. They are in a lot of lucite presentations out there. Not only Ken but Wilkens and others who have material from that era that they took as souvenirs and have sold them or have kept them could be asked to give them back. If any of these pieces come up for sale NASA could ask for them.

It will be interesting to see where this leads. Is it a one time request or will they start going to the auctions any time a piece comes up for sale. A consignor will have to consider that before listing a flown presentation for sale.

It is somewhat strange that they choose to do this now 40 years after the program. These pieces have been around a long time, why are they now asserting claims. I guess with all the loss of jobs, the OIG lawyers want to make sure they will have jobs.

chet
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posted 07-26-2011 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fortunately, I think these (the Slezak-Florian dust, and Mitchell DAC) cases will be isolated ones, as the government is on shaky ground on both counts (and which is likely why they "requested", rather than demanded the dust sample be returned). The troubling aspect however is no matter how flimsy the government's case may be in such instances, the feds have the luxury of playing their games with someone else's money, something that can intimidate just about anybody wishing to test the waters and take them on.

On another note, Al is quite correct that the word "stolen" is being thrown about quite inappropriately here, but I guess the naming of this thread is correct if that was the pronouncement by the feds in relating their exploits to the media. Kind of ironic, isn't it?...one would think of a task force or U.S. Attorney's Office (insofar as lunar material is concerned) as being in place to keep older folks from being bilked out of their money by bunko artists with fake moon rock schemes; here, our government was lying to a widow to bilk her out of her authentic lunar dust sample so they could crow to the media how persistent they were in tracking down and returning the "missing" specks to Houston. (I guess that does make them a bunko squad after all).

Spaceguy5
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posted 07-26-2011 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see nothing wrong with the use of the word 'stolen' as the dust was most definitely taken without permission. Employees are told not to take anything (no matter how trivial it appears) without permission, and by lifting the dust (as well as the foil or anything else, really) they're disobeying that policy.

chet
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posted 07-26-2011 02:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spaceguy, do you know for a fact the dust was taken without tacit permission? And are you deliberately misunderstanding the legal definition of what constitutes "stealing"?

(Bear in mind you're musing about someone who was a dedicated NASA employee for over 30 years, and in the military for three more; I think it's a serious matter to be cavalierly labeling such a person a thief).

Schoner
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posted 07-26-2011 02:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Schoner   Click Here to Email Schoner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
(I guess that does make them a bunko squad after all).
Yes that is what they have become... a so called "bunko squad".

And we did not coin the term "stolen" with regards to Slezak's Apollo 11 moon dust tape... NASA's "bunko squad" did, and used it to gently arm twist that sample from that widow. Just the thought of a U.S. Prosecutor making the request is an "arm twist" in my estimation.

The fact is that this episode, and Ed Mitchell's now puts a chill on many that have flown artifacts, and particles of Apollo moon dust, that could now be claimed as "stolen" or "illegal" to possess four decades after Apollo.

I have found nothing clearly stating that taking souvenirs was illegal then other than the documented moon rocks and soil samples that were in those Apollo lock boxes.

And with regards to the Slezak tape... Did NASA ask for those tape piece then after he used it to remove dust from his fingers, Magazine S and also his blue jumpsuit?

Where is the documentation that NASA ever requested it from him at the time?

NASA was so concerned about this external dust contamination that they were flushing it down the drains and into their waste facility. That is a fact, showing how much NASA thought about this external moon dust then.

So Mr. Slezak, acted on that assumption? (I cannot speak for him, though.) But the fact is that "stolen" is the wrong word to use in his case when one understands the culture of NASA at that time 40 years ago.

There has to be a statute of limitations to NASA's claims, other than the things that they actually documented and archived by number back then during the Apollo Missions.

Where is a lawyer that could lodge a Class Action pro bono to take up a case for all flown artifact collectors forty years after Apollo?

Now that would hit the news big time.

chet
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posted 07-26-2011 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Checkout the hi-res photo here. In the lower left hand corner is an open beta-cloth bag clearly coated with a healthy sprinkling of moondust.

Where can one find the specific NASA procedures for collecting and/or cataloguing that remnant dust, or aren't there any (as there were for just about everything else NASA did in those days)?

If not, and such dust was routinely disposed of, there are two words that come to my mind to describe the Feds' decision to go after that widow's sample in Missouri: unmitigated chutzpah.

Also, for those so inclined, one can review Mr. Slezak's NASA Oral History here.

I'd be ashamed to imply this gentleman a thief after reading it.

Spaceguy5
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posted 07-26-2011 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We have zero proof to assume it was taken with permission. Rather, the fact that dust was rarely granted to anyone else (and just to the actual astronauts on their mission patches) supports otherwise. And yes, dedicated employees (even those with military service) have done unethical things before. Surely you remember the Apollo 15 stamp scandal. Or the KSC employee who recently sold stolen shuttle tiles (and reported that shuttle tile thefts were actually common). I think that many people here are being too biased simply because they're afraid of losing their own collection items.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-26-2011 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This thread is beginning to spiral in several directions. It is approaching the point where the potential for misinformation poses more harm to the hobby than the case that began the discussion ever did.

I have no doubt that everyone participating in this thread has the best of intentions in mind, whether it is to defend the collector or their own collections, but that it has actually reached the (questionable) point where someone can suggest a class action suit against the government over a perceived (but not necessarily actual) threat and think that that will help the hobby is a sign that we need to take a pause.

This forum is not a court of law, most of those participating in the discussion have no legal background and therefore it is at best ill-suited to be debating what is or is not legalese.

So instead of furthering speculation, I am going to do things I should have done 40 or so replies ago.

First, I'm going to briefly close this thread while I recruit someone with legal qualifications to join the discussion. I have someone in mind, but if you're a cS member with an applicable legal background and are comfortable with being identified as such and sharing your advice, then please contact me.

Second, during the time the thread is closed I'm going to review the past three pages to see if it merits being splintered into two (or more) threads, separating the discussion of the case that started this topic with the more generic discussion of government title on space hardware and/or moon dust.

The thread closure will be brief, maybe a couple of days at most, though I will strive to keep it as short a time as possible.


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