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Author Topic:   Spaceflori moon dust declared stolen from NASA
Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-23-2011 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan release
Lunar Material Recovered

The United States Attorney's Office announced that what is believed to be lunar material stolen from National Aeronautics and Space Administration decades ago was safely returned on Monday of this week to its laboratories at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The material consists of moon dust removed from the film cartridge of a camera used by astronauts on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 Mission. The moon dust is believed to have been smuggled out by a NASA employee that had access to the camera that was used on the Apollo 11 Mission. NASA investigators believe that the employee removed the moon dust using a 1-inch piece of tape and that the tape was later sold in 2001 to a German national who deals in space-related memorabilia. Since then the trail has grown cold as it is believed the tape was cut into several smaller segments and sold to unknown purchasers. This would be the first of the segments to be recovered.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern Missouri first learned in early June that the dust was going to be listed for auction by Regency-Superior Auctions in its St. Louis office. Regency is the oldest and one of the largest auctioneers of space and aviation memorabilia in the world. Investigators from NASA's Office of Inspector General out of the Kennedy Space Center then contacted Regency, who cooperated with the investigation and, with the permission of the consignor, withdrew the material from auction. The name of the consignor is not being released. 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.

Investigators from the U.S. Attorney's Office retrieved the material from the Regency Superior Auctions last Friday. On having the lunar material in his office for a day, United States Attorney Richard Callahan quipped, "It wasn't much to look at, but I will never be that close to the moon again!"

Preliminary testing by the Johnson Space Center laboratory late yesterday confirmed that the material is in all likelihood lunar, though it will take another 2-3 weeks to complete full testing.

mjanovec
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posted 06-23-2011 02:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WOW, this news could have important ramifications for those in the United States who have purchased one of these presentations. If this lunar dust is indeed declared to be both authentic and stolen, do people who own these presentations now have a legal obligation to forfeit them to NASA? And what are the potential consequences for people who retain these presentations and/or try to re-sell them in the future?

I can't help but wonder how many collectSPACE members have these presentations within their collections.

And maybe this is a question that only Florian Noller himself can answer, but will he be cooperating with US authorities to recover any of the other presentations sold to date?

SpaceAholic
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posted 06-23-2011 03:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A potential pandora's box as there are many dust stained items in circulation some of which were retained by crew members and subsequently released to the public. In this instance I think the Govt would have the burden of proving intent (on the part of Slezak) to violate a concurrently existing statute (what is the statute and when was it enacted?).

Greggy_D
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posted 06-23-2011 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Absolutely ridiculous on the part of the US Attorney's Office. How were they notified?

Are they also going to pursue the Recovery Team "Kapton Theives" with the same enthusiasm?

MrSpace86
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posted 06-23-2011 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, that is huge. I always thought that moon rocks were not allowed to be sold, but lunar dust? I mean, come on, how many checklists, suit material, and other items have lunar dust on them that have been sold in auctions and privately? This case will only get more and more interesting and tangled.

mjanovec
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posted 06-23-2011 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can see being able to own an artifact that is stained or discolored with lunar dust (as long as one can prove legal ownership of the artifact in question). But once you extract the dust from the artifact and advertise it as lunar dust for sale, I can understand why NASA might have a problem with that. At that point, the dust and the artifact become separate items. And NASA will likely claim that they still own the dust, even if they no longer own the artifact.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but it's a potential mine field for anyone looking to profit from the sale of lunar dust.

fredtrav
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posted 06-23-2011 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They are wasting taxpayer dollars to recover minute amounts of dust?

I see your point Mark, but I suppose NASA could now claim any artifact that has lunar dust on it no matter how it was acquired, whether it was a Spaceflori presentation or a flown checklist. I don't see where removing the dust from the artifact makes it any less legal than owning the artifact itself. Maybe NASA will take the artifact, remove the dust and return it... right.

NJSPACEFAN
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posted 06-23-2011 06:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJSPACEFAN   Click Here to Email NJSPACEFAN     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the government considers this an act of "replevin" but carried to an extreme. If they wish to pursue stolen Moon dust, why not investigate the Moon rocks missing from various state and government archives? They certainly have more significance than dust adhered to a one inch strip of tape!

Greggy_D
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posted 06-23-2011 06:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This old cS article indicates Mr. Slezak used tape to lift the dust from his hands, not from an artifact.

My question would be... how did NASA clean the rest of Mr. Slezak? Did they save all other lunar particles retrieved off the body of Mr. Slezak?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-23-2011 08:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How did the authorities learn of the sale? A few general observations:
  • Auction houses, reputable ones at least, routinely submit their catalogs to the appropriate authorities for review.

  • The authorities routinely browse auction catalogs.

  • "Good Samaritans" (of various knowledge levels) routinely browse sale listings and raise questions about what they think does not look right (regardless if they are wrong or right).
Any one (or multiples) of the above could have led to the moon dust being confiscated.

Actually, confiscated is not the right word. It was turned over, at most surrendered.

As far I can determine, there is no legal precedent being set here. There were no charges, no arrest, not even a sting operation.

The authorities asked for Regency-Superior's cooperation and received it. The authorities asked for the consignor's cooperation and received it.

It's not unusual for the authorities to ask for others to cooperate with their requests.

A couple of other observations:

  • The authorities allowed the original 2001 sale of the intact Slezak presentation to proceed unchallenged (either before or after the auction).

  • Slezak told The New York Times today that no one from NASA or law enforcement has ever questioned him about the tape, even when he sold the poster at an auction in 2001.
Had this case played out differently, had the authorities confiscated the display from a consignor defending his/her right to own the display, then the outcome of that legal proceeding would potentially have had ramifications for other collectors. As it actually occurred, not so much.

AusSpace
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posted 06-23-2011 09:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AusSpace   Click Here to Email AusSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jeez, I'm glad mine is here in Australia. This will only add to the provenance of them, won't it, with NASA confirming their authenticity?

mjanovec
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posted 06-23-2011 11:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The interesting question is whether the authorities will pursue other examples of these presentations that come to the market.

For example, one of these Apollo 11 lunar dust presentations sold on eBay for $1,680.00 back on May 15.

Are there any USA collectors here who want to admit they have one of these in their collection?

SpaceAholic
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posted 06-23-2011 11:10 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:
Had this case played out differently, had the authorities confiscated the display from a consignor defending his/her right to own the display, then the outcome of that legal proceeding would potentially have had ramifications for other collectors.
We don't know how the DA will proceed if the dust is confirmed Lunar material; there may be another shoe yet to drop. Even if no criminality is established in this instance, collector ramifications have already occurred - the benchmark for what now bears federal scrutiny has been extended to include seemingly inconsequential specs of dust and collectors who are already heavily invested will be compelled to eat the loss.

Of course if things turn out the other way and the Feds decide lunar dust in private hands is not something worth pursuing, all the free press (now including a story carried on the DRUDGE REPORT this evening) combined with NASA authentication is going to turn those SpaceFlori presentations into one hell of an investment.

JFS61
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posted 06-23-2011 11:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JFS61     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just what has NASA got against collectors? First, we aren't allowed the opportunity to acquire shuttle tiles for what are to me, somewhat lame reasons, and now we aren't allowed to own lunar dust.

Good grief - What's next? Maybe we should all squirrel away our flown acrylic collections just to be on the safe side.

Aztecdoug
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posted 06-23-2011 11:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is scary to ponder how far the government could go. Are all of those Alan Bean originals with real moondust going to end up in the crosshairs?

David Carey
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posted 06-24-2011 12:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great summary of facts, and interesting scenario analysis. The ramifications may be minimal or quite significant to either the 'good' or the 'bad' so curious to see what - if anything - comes next and how it plays out.

I also collect antiquities (an odd pairing with Space stuff perhaps) and good provenance is paramount given the swirl of ownership debates and changing laws. Is space artifact collecting headed in the same direction?

In the specific example of a lucite or similar 'gifts of the time', many/most were made and given by NASA or its affiliates with full and open knowledge, at least to my understanding. A wave of claw-backs seems quite unlikely or at least indefensible.

So, no precedent yet but anything from few to many potential outcomes in the long run.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-24-2011 06:02 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 Aztecdoug:
Are all of those Alan Bean originals with real moondust going to end up in the crosshairs?
NASA formally presented (with documentation) Alan Bean (and the other Apollo astronauts) with their patches; there is no question about the legality of their ownership.

The issue in Terry Slezak's case (and similar cases) is and has always been was the release of the lunar material authorized by NASA.

In the original 2001 auction listing for the "poster board montage" that included "a 1" piece of scotch tape covered in moon dust 'taken off when I (Mr Slezak) cleaned the magazine.'" mention is made that it was "given to Mr. Slezak as a memento." No other detail about how the dust came to be in Slezak's possession is provided.

The implication therefore, is that someone was authorized to present him with the montage, including the moon dust, as a souvenir.

Here however, is the (recently revealed, potential) problem: the montage as given to Slezak did not include the moon dust-stained tape.

Speaking to The New York Times on Thursday, Slezak said, "Later, presented with a poster board of photographs signed by the Apollo 11 astronauts, 'I added the little piece of Scotch tape with the moon dust on it... I thought that would be kind of neat.'"

So Slezak took it upon his own accord to remove the moon dust-stained tape from NASA. It was not presented to him as many (myself included) were led to believe by the auction listing.

One wonders what else was originally on the montage board and what was later added by Slezak himself? In his interview with The New York Times, he describes the original presentation only as "a poster board of photographs signed by the Apollo 11 astronauts."

Was the flown, Aldrin hand-written note about the contents of Magazine "S" original to the montage? Was the "Mag. S" label presented to Slezak or was it saved by him? Was the Kapton tape sample, which was first mounted to a COA-style card, original to the display or added later?

No one at NASA was ever authorized to simply pocket or remove items from their work space, including the astronauts who had to seek written permission to retain the lunar flown items that they did (those memos reside today in the University of Houston, Clear Lake NASA-JSC Archives).

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.

Greggy_D
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posted 06-24-2011 08:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This article from Time indicates NASA discovered the dust for sale.

When investigators from both NASA and the U.S. Attorney's office noticed moon dust listed for sale in St. Louis, they shut down the transaction with the cooperation of the auction house and the seller.

Have they had their head in the sand for the past ten years? Why ignore a decade of transactions regarding the presentations, only to go into (a limited for now) recovery mode?

This article from Forbes just adds to the spectacle.

"In the case of extraterrestrial material, it's invaluable," Parker said. "It's something that needs to stay within a scientific community."

Authorities learned the tape was sold to a German collector of space memorabilia in 2001. The pursuit of the missing dust then grew cold, though it is believed the tape was cut into several smaller segments and sold to other buyers, the U.S. attorney's office said. The segment in St. Louis was the first piece found.

Needs to stay within a scientific community? What about the dust on name tags and checklists? Is that dust any less valuable? Shouldn't that dust also stay within the scientific community, according to logic?

The trail grew cold? How many times have we seen the presentations on cS, Ebay, or other auction houses? Heck, Robert even wrote an article back on Dec 10, 2001 about them.

The timing of the recovery is so unbelievably odd.

fredtrav
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posted 06-24-2011 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some investigators NASA has. The trail grew cold after it was sold to a German collector. They knew who the collector was or could have the information from the auction that sold the original poster with the tape on it. They could have done a Google search anytime later after Florian began selling his presentations and found him. If they were investigating the moon dust back then then they were incredibly incompetent. No wonder NASA is in the position it is today, if this is the type of people they employ.

If they did not know this existed until now, then their incompetence is further highlighted. These pieces have been for sale quite openly, from Florian, through eBay, and the various auction houses. it was not hard to find information on them. As Robert said, Florian and the others bought the items in good faith, however if the NASA and the government is now asserting ownership, then will they have to be returned?

If they are now claiming it is theirs, will they go back through auction records, ask Florian for names, look at eBay to identify current owners?

What about bits of Kapton foil that were taken by engineers and other workers on the modules. Some pieces were presented by NASA, but I imagine many others were kept as souvenirs at the time and are now on the market. Will NASA also start going after these fragments?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-24-2011 09:02 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 fredtrav:
Some investigators NASA has. The trail grew cold...
Let's not conflate press release-speak with reality, and also recognize the release was from the U.S. Attorney's office, not NASA.

This recovery was one of convenience and cooperation, not the result of a long drawn out investigation. The auction came to their attention (regardless of how), and they received the cooperation of the auction house and the consignor.

In a previous case that involved multiple stolen artifacts, NASA didn't aggressively pursue the collectors who made good faith purchases. They did contact by letter those who they were aware owned some of the pieces and requested their cooperation returning the items. Some cooperated, some (reportedly) didn't. To my knowledge, none of the collectors were charged and no forced seizures were ever made.

fredtrav
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posted 06-24-2011 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess the question going forward is whether NASA will more aggressively monitor auctions and other sales for this material. And if they do, what will they do if someone simply says no when asked to turn it over. If I owned some (I wish) and wanted to sell it, it could put a damper on my sale. I assume that what this action does is put people on notice this is property NASA claims. You can no longer say I bought it believing it was legal to own it.

spaceflori
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posted 06-24-2011 11:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceflori   Click Here to Email spaceflori     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This will be my only post regarding the matter until my lawyers have taken over the thing.

Unfortunately the press release is so full of obvious mistakes, crap and lies it sounds to me more like a personal smear campaign of a certain agent there who has already broken the law in 2002, then we didn't sue him further.

My attorney will request an official statement from them incl. all facts and proofs they claim to have, so we can properly react and bring the guy to justice that wastes your hardly earned money as a taxpayer.

Just one thing... when I spoke with last time they hung up the phone after they learned I'm represented by several lawyers. We even requested a written statement that they declined.
There is no scientific value in these kind of samples as many scientists confirmed already.

But then again for somebody not even getting history right or knowing a tiny country called the former Soviet Union who successfully retrieved lunar material (to be read here on collectSPACE) what would you expect?

We will be working on solving the situation as soon as possible to all sides satisfaction.

I hope Robert is closing this thread for now as I will not further comment it.

mjanovec
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posted 06-24-2011 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Speaking to The New York Times on Thursday, Slezak said, "Later, presented with a poster board of photographs signed by the Apollo 11 astronauts, 'I added the little piece of Scotch tape with the moon dust on it... I thought that would be kind of neat.'"
This is really the whole crux of this case. If that quotation is accurate, it seems clear the dust-covered tape was not part of the original presentation given to him. As such, it would appear that there was no legal standing for him to own the lunar dust.

Also, regarding the presentation itself, are we sure this is a presentation that was reviewed or approved by NASA management? Or was this a neat memento put together by friends and co-workers as a gift to Slezak... as a reminder of his accidental exposure to lunar dust? If this presentation was unofficial in nature (and never approved by NASA management), that also sinks the argument for private ownership of this dust.

Whereas IF the presentation was an official NASA presentation (approved by management) and IF it included the lunar dust at the time it was presented, then a case can be made that this dust was legal to own and re-sell.

Unfortunately, this level of scrutiny should have been applied in 2001 when the dust was auctioned.

As for the government not noticing the sale of the dust back in October 2001... well, they had a few other things (like this and this) on their minds at the time.

SpaceAholic
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posted 06-24-2011 02:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mjanovec:
Whereas IF the presentation was an official NASA presentation (approved by management) and IF it included the lunar dust at the time it was presented, then a case can be made that this dust was legal to own and re-sell.
Management approval doesn't necessarily make anything official unless it was acting in a capacity specifically authorized by law or directive.

Spaceguy5
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posted 06-24-2011 04:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by fredtrav:
They are wasting taxpayer dollars to recover minute amounts of dust?

The dust is stolen, you can't deny that. Not many posters here are respecting that fact. Also, if the dust is so valuable to people, then perhaps the government seeking its return isn't that unreasonable. I imagine the reaction would be totally different had the case been something else like stolen Columbia debris, which is actually much less valuable than moon dust considering its all scrap materials. Perhaps if we do return to the moon (I imagine it'll happen *Eventually*), moon dust will become much more common and publicly available (depending on who it is that's going)

AusSpace
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posted 06-24-2011 08:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AusSpace   Click Here to Email AusSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are two issues/questions that seem to stand out to me. The first being, has anybody else who decided to sell one of these through a public medium at any time in the past, been approached by NASA or a district attorney, but declined?

It just seems very convenient that the first display they target was handed over free of hassle. What if they have made requests in the past, but the owners have refused. If they felt that they might lose a challenge in the court, would they really want the public awareness that these are legal to own?

The way it stands with this case, the media beat up has given the impression that they aren't legal, without actually having it tested in the court.

The second query I have is whether or not NASA ever really possessed ownership of the dust in the first place. All the other lunar samples where intentionally collected and catalogued, but as far as I understand it, no senior management where even aware of these samples until they where already circulating.

Yes they would have been aware of Slezak contamination, but they had no interest in the dust, further than Slezak biological containment. During the earlier missions, dust contamination was even swabbed down and then intentionally sunk.

At what point during NASA's possession of the dust did they declare or imply intent of ownership? If I come back from the desert after drought breaking rains, and my tires are caked in mud, then an edaphologist collects some mud that has chipped off, do I have the right to demand it back?

Also, what happened to the rest of the dust from camera magazine "S"? Did they make an attempt to recover the rest of it? If so, and they can show records of the recovery and curation, then they may have a case, however if the dust was only another inconvenience to have been disposed of, then I don't believe they have any authority over it in the first place.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-25-2011 10:40 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 AusSpace:
The second query I have is whether or not NASA ever really possessed ownership of the dust in the first place.
All Apollo-returned lunar material — from dust to rocks and everything in between — immediately became U.S. state (government) property upon its collection (regardless if the collection was done knowingly or not). NASA, as the appropriate federal agency, was entrusted as the custodian of the material.

All Apollo-recovered material no longer in NASA's control is therefore the result of one of two possibilities: it was transferred to another entity (e.g. the Apollo 17 goodwill gifts and the astronauts' moon dust-stained patches) or it was stolen.

Schoner
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posted 07-23-2011 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Schoner   Click Here to Email Schoner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with AusSpace's comment. But the fact of the matter is that according to the news releases, without a court of law stating otherwise, that NASA's claim is that this Apollo 11 Moon Dust spaceflori presentation is "illegal".

Yet it has been sold openly since 2001 and in many auctions since then. All the while NASA was aware of it right from the start. It was not "stolen" not on the "black market" nor was it ever "missing" as the news articles unjustly stated.

But, if left standing...

It is "illegal" by default as NASA in its capacity has said so.

Really?

Where is the news followup?

This determination cannot stand at face value as there are at least 200 others that have these items in their possession.

Too bad that lady was cowed into surrendering this item as it set a precedent for NASA's claim of its illegality.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-23-2011 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The heart of the problem remains: based on his own recent statements, Terry Slezak has admitted to taking the moon dust-stained tape from NASA without permission. It wasn't presented to him, as was originally represented (or at the very least implied). He took it.

Ideally the former Superior Galleries (not be confused with Regency-Superior Galleries) would have clarified this at the time of the original auction and once learning the truth, turned away the sale.

But that of course, didn't happen. Instead, Superior proceeded with the auction, selling the ill-gotten moon dust-stained tape to Florian Noller. Noller, as Spaceflori, resold pieces of the tape.

The resale doesn't negate the alleged (if not also, self-admitted) theft of the original moon dust-stained tape. It just makes the resolution to it much more complicated.

chet
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posted 07-24-2011 01:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm afraid the facts are a bit more complicated than as they've been stated, (certainly those by the ever-trustworthy "news" media).

The Slezak dust wasn't "stolen" (as Slezak didn't steal it), and it wasn't "missing" (as NASA had no record of it and it was never cataloged as such, or reported as missing or stolen at the time, or even thereafter), as was reported by Time, and others (including here).

As noted, there have been no successful prosecutions of anyone possessing moondust, and that's not just by accident.

NASA has been behaving lately like a schoolyard bully, and if this is the best we can expect from them (with no clear vision, or future goals stated), I'd just as soon they fold up the tents and end the show altogether; the Mitchell and Slezak-dust cases are a gross display of an agency that's lost its way.

GACspaceguy
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posted 07-24-2011 07:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
The Slezak dust wasn't "stolen" (as Slezak didn't steal it), and it wasn't "missing" (as NASA had no record of it and it was never cataloged as such, or reported as missing or stolen at the time, or even thereafter), as was reported by Time, and others (including here).
But what about the following scenario?

My mother gives me a box that belonged to my deceased father. In it she says that it contains all of my late father's wrist watches which my Dad wanted me to have when he died. Great, I take inventory as I am not sure what is there and thus I assume I have it all. Some time later I find out that there was in fact a missing watch, one that was broken and a friend of my Dad took with the thought that he would have it repaired. My Dad dies, he figures my Dad would no longer miss that watch so he repairs it and sells it. Is that watch stolen or not? I would say it was stolen as all of Dad’s watches were to be mine.

My Dad’s friend was entrusted with the care of his watch, as was the worker who took the dust. My Dad's friend had honorable motives at first as he was going to salvage the watch, so did the worker who took the dust, as the dust may have ended up falling on the floor and swept away. Time had passed before I knew that there was even a watch to be missed, time has passed on the worker who took the dust. The watch was of little value until repaired and sold. The dust had little value until it was then was mounted a sold.

As I said, I would feel that in the scenario set above my Dad's watch and thus mine, although now owned by another, was in fact still mine and should be returned to me. Regardless of the fact the current owner bought it without the knowledge that the seller did not have the right to sell it.

Again, I am not defending the actions of the dust taker or NASA but just pointing out that we need to be careful in how we define ownership and “stolen” in the legal sense.

Once again for me the real question is, why this and why now?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-24-2011 08:59 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 chet:
The Slezak dust wasn't "stolen"
Says who? Please point to the declaration where NASA released any of the loose moon dust to anyone who had access to it.

By your reasoning, the geologists working in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory who were entrusted to catalog the lunar material could have (should have?) legally skimmed off samples and kept them because "NASA had no record of it and it was never cataloged as such, or reported as missing or stolen at the time, or even thereafter."

Simplifying the scenario: You work in a company's mailroom. The mail is delivered one day and you're the first to see it. In the process of sorting it, one of the envelopes opens and cash falls out. No one but you knows about the cash, so you pocket it. The company doesn't know the cash went missing, so it doesn't report it stolen. So, are you in your legal right to keep the cash?

gliderpilotuk
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posted 07-24-2011 09:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Simplifying the scenario: You work in a company's mailroom. The mail is delivered one day and you're the first to see it. In the process of sorting it, one of the envelopes opens and cash falls out. No one but you knows about the cash, so you pocket it. The company doesn't know the cash went missing, so it doesn't report it stolen. So, are you in your legal right to keep the cash?

Have you experience working for Royal Mail, Robert?

Slightly "off" analogy. You'd have to add that there were ten years' or so of delay before someone finds that the cash has been stolen, by virtue of it being in third party hands and secondly, cash being a fungible asset, you'd have a problem ever proving that a number of bills discovered later were ever part of the original "whole".

Whilst never a fan of cutting up collectibles I'm nevertheless with the "why and why now?" crowd. What about the dust-stained charts and name patches we've seen? If I were a US citizen I'd be submitting a FOI request as to the likely cost of this ridiculous investigation.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-24-2011 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What investigation? An auction catalog was released, the auction house was contacted and they cooperated, the consignor was contacted and cooperated. For all we know, this could have been the total of a day's worth of phone calls.

Even if took longer, this is what the Office of the Inspector General exists to do.

Public law 95-452, known as the Inspector General Act of 1978, created independent audit and investigative units, called Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) at 63 Federal agencies.

The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts independent audits, reviews, and investigations of NASA programs and operations to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse...

The alleged theft of government property and/or the conversion of government property for unauthorized purposes (e.g. personal profit) are examples of fraud and abuse.
quote:
What about the dust-stained charts and name patches we've seen?
At no time in NASA's history did anyone — astronaut or otherwise — have authority to just walk off with items just because they desired to keep them. They had to seek permission, or they had to be formally presented with the item. If neither of those instances occurred, then they committed an act of theft.

If the statute of limitations has expired, it only means they cannot be prosecuted for that theft. It does not mean that they did not commit the theft to begin with...

SRB
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posted 07-24-2011 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've always wondered who gave people permission to keep pieces of the kapton foil or the heat shield plugs from various CMs.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-24-2011 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In many cases, the kapton and other hardware souvenirs were not authorized by NASA. For example, an excerpt from a memo from Julian Scheer, Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs to Sam Phillips, Director of NASA's Apollo Manned Lunar Landing Program, dated March 18, 1969:
I think it is important at this point to make certain that everyone understands that souvenir-hunting, cannibalizing, etc., no matter how small, should not take place. It is difficult to control since the spacecraft go back to NAR and there is no way to keep tabs on them constantly. But it would be helpful, since I'm certain you agree, if you could get the proper word out to all hands that this is not an acceptable practice.

The Agency has a very firm agreement with the Smithsonian on the turn-over of artifacts. Some of the Gemini spacecraft have been badly gutted of instruments and other small fittings.

More specifically, is this memorandum from James McDivitt, acting in his role as Manager, Apollo Spacecraft Program, for wide distribution through the Apollo program offices, dated October 4, 1969.
There have been several occasions in which unauthorized removal of equipment or parts of spacecraft has been experienced. These removals have included stripping of small pieces of the kapton thermal coating and removal of the command module nameplates. These removals have occurred during the recovery and return to NAR and during postflight testing.

I would like to point out to all personnel concerned that this unauthorized removal of equipment, no matter how small it may seem, constitutes a violation of our responsibility.

In order to prevent unauthorized removals in the future, I would like to urge all personnel having access to the recovered spacecraft and equipment to take a personal interest in seeing that all of the hardware is protected and properly handled while in their custody.

ilbasso
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posted 07-24-2011 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just take a look at the photos of Apollo 11's Columbia bobbing in the water as the crew are recovered. One whole side of the vehicle is still covered in gold Kapton. You can even see the tape lines over the rest of the vehicle. Compare that with how Columbia looks on display now in the NASM. There's not a speck of Kapton on the vehicle.

albatron
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posted 07-24-2011 06:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For something to be "stolen" there has to be the INTENT to deprive.

Did Slezak KNOW that he wasn't authorized to take it?

MrSpace86
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posted 07-24-2011 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh no....please don't go after the Kapton

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
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posted 07-24-2011 08:03 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 albatron:
Did Slezak KNOW that he wasn't authorized to take it?
That's a question only Slezak can answer. But even if he was unaware, that doesn't mean he was in the right to take it.


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