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Author Topic:   NASA inquiry halts sale of astronauts' artifacts
Schoner
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posted 01-09-2012 06:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Schoner   Click Here to Email Schoner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mjanovec:
They will not forfeit their right to pursue artifacts they believe were wrongfully taken from the agency.
"Wrongfully taken." And that is the question that is being debated now... probably due to the fact that there were no clear guidelines back then when things were taken as keepsakes.

AJ
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posted 01-09-2012 06:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AJ   Click Here to Email AJ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cernan made a good point when he essentially said they weren't focused on filling out paperwork, they were focused on going to the moon. Some of the items that have been sold over time were items that could have easily been thrown away when an astronaut was cleaning out his desk at NASA.

I don't understand why NASA is focusing on these items now, when pieces of actual spacecraft (kapton foil, netting, pieces of the seats) have been sold in the past. If anyone could explain why this and why now, I'd be delighted to hear it.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-09-2012 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You're comparing different chains of ownership. Each type of item and each chain of custody needs to be considered separately. There is no blanket rule.

Many of the Kapton tape souvenirs for example, were indeed taken from NASA without permission, in so much that Jim McDivitt, as Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager, warned in an October 1969 memo.

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 North American 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.

Whereas heat shield samples were authorized for presentation once they were removed from the spacecraft to conduct post-flight testing. Consider this excerpt from a June 1969 letter from Robert Gilruth, director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, to Kurt Debus, director of the Kennedy Space Center.
I am sending you a piece of the heat shield from Apollo 8, man's first flight to lunar orbit. This core sample was originally taken out of the heat shield in order to perform an engineering analysis of the ablative characteristics of the material under conditions of lunar reentry. We have now completed the analysis, and I thought that you would like to have the sample as a memento of this historic flight.
With regards to the astronauts' mementos, part of the problem may be the changing definition of "artifact." NASA has had written rules governing historical artifact disposition dating back to (at least) 1964. A "management instruction" from that year states unequivocally:
Disposition will be made either by transfer of title or by indefinite loan, depending on the legal authority available and as mutually agreed by the parties concerned. When NASA historical artifacts are made available on an indefinite loan basis, the recipient must make appropriate commitments to NASA regarding maintenance of the property.
The question then becomes did NASA view the checklists and other items retained by the astronauts as artifacts or were they, as a 1973 letter describes the proposed mementos, "expendable equipment."

YankeeClipper
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posted 01-09-2012 07:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good interview on Fox News. It's great to see the power of history being brought to bear on this issue through the solidarity of the astronauts.

That solidarity must also extend to Ed Mitchell.

Now that the Apollo 14 LM Camera is destined for display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington and he has been forced to relinquish title (claim), I think it unlikely it will be returned to him. It will be on display in a distinguished public location and that's not a bad thing.

His fellow Apollo astronauts could, and should, insist however that NASA pay his legal fees incurred in the recent case and give him the upper Bonhams auction estimate of $80,000 as a gesture of goodwill. It would be a small price to pay in this specific case. By instigating legal action, NASA's actions have indirectly cast doubt on Ed's reputation, integrity, and honor and there needs to be an apology and atonement for that.

The eyes of not just the US, but of the world, are upon this. So, NASA, do you really value the integrity and honor of Ed Mitchell? If so, then prove it!

dtemple
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posted 01-09-2012 08:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dtemple   Click Here to Email dtemple     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I haven't read this entire thread so maybe this has been discussed - statute of limitations. The status of these various items has been known for decades now. Surely there is a statute of limitations law that governs this controversy. Even if the items in question were not legally taken from NASA (not implying that's the case - just a hypothetical), statute of limitations should have prevented NASA from going forward with this nonsense. Maybe there is no such thing when the government is involved. This is certainly not NASA's finest hour.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-09-2012 08:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The subject of a federal statute of limitations was raised during the case against Edgar Mitchell. The judge wrote:
First, the Court finds that under 28 U.S.C. § 2415(c), which provides that "[n]othing herein shall be deemed to limit the time for bringing an action to establish title to, or right of possession of, real or personal property," Plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief is not untimely.

Second, the Court finds that under 28 U.S.C. 2416(c), the limitations periods exclude periods during which "facts material to the right of action are not known and reasonably could not be known by an official of the United States charged with the responsibility to act in the circumstance." Accordingly, the Court cannot determine that Plaintiff's conversion and replevin claims are barred unless it also determines that Plaintiff had constructive knowledge of the facts material to the right of action prior to its discovery of the auction...

In this case (concerning Lovell and Schweickart) there were no legal proceedings and there is no statute of limitations on NASA asking questions.

fredtrav
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posted 01-09-2012 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The question of statute of limitations might go differently for the checklist. It is known that astronauts kept checklists so it will harder to argue that the government did not or could not have known Lovell had this as opposed to Mitchell's camera which was a one of a kind item.

Of course, as Robert notes, there is no statute of limitations on asking questions, assuming that is as far as it goes.

Rizz
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posted 01-09-2012 09:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rizz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There's only one way this can go now, and they better give Dr. Mitchell back his camera!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-09-2012 09:24 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:
...harder to argue that the government did not or could not have known Lovell had this
Except by Lovell's own public comments, he didn't know he had it; he only found it after cleaning out a bookshelf. But as you say, the statute of limitations shouldn't be a concern any longer given NASA's desire to work with the astronauts to resolve this issue.

jimsz
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posted 01-09-2012 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
By instigating legal action, NASA's actions have indirectly cast doubt on Ed's reputation, integrity, and honor and there needs to be an apology and atonement for that.
I would love for these astronauts to sue NASA for the damage to their integrity and reputation.

They are being looked at as doing something wrong.

SpaceAholic
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posted 01-09-2012 09:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I dont think its so cut and dry...Bolden is a public servant who took an oath of office. Where does he draw the line without prejudicing the outcome of other claims or prosecution against illegitimate transfers of government property; or placing his organization in legal jeopardy via misapplication of authority?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-09-2012 09:51 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 jimsz:
They are being looked at as doing something wrong.
Is that a fact? What evidence do we have for that?

Earlier in this thread, several posts share how the public seems to side with the astronauts. For example, describing a call-in show:

The host and all of the callers were decidedly on Lovell's side.
Today's Fox News broadcast was also decidedly in favor of the astronauts. There wasn't even the hint of the astronauts having done something wrong.

The General Counsel's letter didn't name the astronauts involved and in the case against Mitchell, he was not charged with breaking any law.

You yourself wrote:

Could NASA possibly find more ways to make themselves look bad?
So is it the astronauts being made to look wrong, or NASA?

AJ
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posted 01-09-2012 10:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AJ   Click Here to Email AJ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think maybe what jimsz is saying is that the wording of the letter from NASA implies that Lovell and Schweickart did something wrong, i.e. they are in possession of items which they don't own, perhaps even implying that they stole them. When I read the letter I certainly felt that NASA was painting Lovell and Schweickart as the bad guys.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-09-2012 10:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But did that letter damage their "integrity and reputation" such that they would have ground to sue? The letter didn't name them and wasn't addressed to them.

My point is there doesn't need to be an evil party in all of this. While I don't agree with NASA's General Counsel, I don't think they set out to purposely attack the astronauts. I think it is more likely that they did not consider the full ramifications of their actions.

YankeeClipper
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posted 01-09-2012 11:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The status and fate of the Apollo Lunar Modules' hardware is particularly intriguing.

From Apollo 9 thru Apollo 17, only 9 of these craft ever flew in space. Some of the most historically significant craft not just in the history of NASA, but of humanity. The pinnacle of human technical engineering at the time, the result of millenia of technological innovation and evolution. The first human vehicles to land on another heavenly body.

I don't understand why NASA would not take greater care to preserve and curate the little it could from these craft. They were all destined for ultimate destruction, so why wouldn't NASA formally insist on small low-weight equipment like COAS and 16mm DAC being deliberately salvaged for posterity?

Why would you let Pete Conrad grab the Intrepid's COAS, Jim Lovell the Aquarius's COAS, Ed Mitchell the Antares's 16mm DAC, and John Young the Orion's COAS on the spur-of-the-moment before jettison and forget all about these precious artifacts for decades?

This approach just doesn't seem consistent with deliberately planned salvage or indefinite loans on the part of NASA. Rather, it would seem NASA considered such hardware to be fully expendable at the time and that if an astronaut did grab something it was, as Jim Lovell wrote in his book, merely "a souvenir".

Was there any documented formal instruction to crews to salvage such small hardware and, if not, why ever not? That's a question I would like to put to NASA. I understand weight was at a premium but the very existence of such artifacts today proves it was not an impossible task to accomplish.

YankeeClipper
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posted 01-10-2012 01:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
They are being looked at as doing something wrong.

Some say perception is reality. In the FOX News interview Gene Cernan said that:

I think more than that, Megyn, the thing that bothers me and several of us is the impingement on our personal integrity. For almost half a century now we have had the trust of the American people and now ... the trust is being violated or we're being accused of violating that trust and I resent that quite personally. I personally resent that because we gave everything we had at the time to what we were doing.

Some of the comments in response to UK media articles are suggestive of some element of wrong-doing e.g. on the Daily Telegraph website one reader posted:

It's a double-edged sword. NASA filing suit over paperwork that would've wound up in a dumpster or incinerator is asinine. But if they do nothing, they're encouraging mass-theft.

The best comment was from one reader who reminded everyone how NASA degaussed the original Apollo 11 Lunar Landing tapes.

Given NASA's track record, I thought Marilyn Lovell's suggestion to Jim to rub out the calculations and give the checklist back was pretty darn funny!

chet
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posted 01-10-2012 03:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought the Fox interview was great but I'm not very encouraged by NASA's statement regarding "working it out".

NASA is a federal bureaucracy, and the bureaucrats who've been making these asinine decisions to harass Apollo astronauts will, I fear, not go down quietly. And while Bolden and the "gang of four" may have indeed had a very good meeting, the same 5 people will likely not be involved in the actual grind of negotiations to forge that "happy solution" everyone here is hoping for.

My biggest fear is some kind of compromise (i.e., call for sacrifice) will be trotted out by govt. negotiators as a way forward, but in this case compromise is capitulation; either these articles belong rightfully and WHOLLY to these astronauts (and by extension, us), or they do not. I fervently hope the astros don't end up agreeing under pressure to some idiotic deal just so NASA gets to save some face; if anything NASA deserves to have its collective nose rubbed in the muck hard and dirty for the embarrassments it's caused here.

Finally, though I'm glad Lovell, Duke, Cernan and Schweikart are making noises now, I have to say I'm really disappointed they weren't as publicly vociferous when NASA was busy railroading their fellow astronaut, Ed Mitchell, over his claims to that DAC. Hopefully whatever agreement is reached will achieve some greater justice for Ed, but as already stated, I'm a tad skeptical.

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posted 01-10-2012 06:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by AJ:
I think maybe what jimsz is saying is that the wording of the letter from NASA implies that Lovell and Schweickart did something wrong
Yes.
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:But did that letter damage their "integrity and reputation" such that they would have ground to sue?
You don't need grounds to sue. You simply need a lawyer. There would lawyers lining up to take a case like this if only for the recognition. Just watch TV - there are always some loudmouthed bottom feeder willing to find a reason to sue. The astronauts however come across as men of integrity and would probably not want to be involved in damaging NASA. It's too bad NASA did not think the same in return.

garymilgrom
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posted 01-10-2012 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
Was there any documented formal instruction to crews to salvage such small hardware and, if not, why ever not? That's a question I would like to put to NASA.
I think the answer is simple - 40 years of hindsight. NASA wasn't focused on collecting bits from Apollo 8, it was focused on Apollo 9 (etc). And they were not aware they were immersed in historical icons and documentation; they were too busy using these items and making history!

It's easy for us to ask why they didn't have certain procedures in place years ago, but the world was a different place 4 decades ago, and everything was done differently and to different standards.

Let's give NASA, General Bolden, the lawyers and everyone involved time to work this out before we comment on their goals or motives.

ilbasso
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posted 01-10-2012 07:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
You don't need grounds to sue. You simply need a lawyer...
But in the US, the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity holds that you cannot sue the Government except under specific circumstances, under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The FTCA provides a limited waiver of the Federal Government's sovereign immunity when its employees are negligent within the scope of their employment. Under the FTCA, the government can only be sued 'under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.' 28 U.S.C. S 1346(b). Thus, the FTCA does not apply to conduct that is uniquely governmental, that is, incapable of performance by a private individual.

I think you'd have a hard time proving that a Federal employee (even if you could identify who that person was) caused actionable damage due to their negligence 40+ years ago.

YankeeClipper
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posted 01-10-2012 08:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
I think the answer is simple - 40 years of hindsight. NASA wasn't focused on collecting... And they were not aware they were immersed in historical icons and documentation; they were too busy using these items and making history!
The National Air Museum (now the National Air and Space Museum) was formed in August 1946 but pieces in its collection had been actively acquired by the Smithsonian as far back as the 1880s. So someone in the US in the 1960s appreciated the importance of preserving flown history!

I struggle to accept that on the most historically significant adventure of mankind, when NASA clearly understood the need to curate lunar rock, the importance of photography, and the importance of preserving the command modules that they would miss the salvageable lunar module hardware as an oversight. Clearly the prime flight crews didn't!

As far as documented instruction goes, it didn't even have to be a written memo. CAPCOM could simply have relayed a request on the recorded and transcribed voice-loops - something to the effect of:

We have one more item for you, we'd like you to retrieve and stow the COAS and DAC.

I would understand that not happening on Apollo 13 due to higher priority tasking but there was certainly time and opportunity on other flights to make such a formal request. It would be a clear indication that NASA valued such LM hardware.

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posted 01-10-2012 11:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Schoner   Click Here to Email Schoner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It has been said that Apollo 13 was "NASA's finest hour." A clear indication of the the ingenuity of the NASA team and the Apollo 13 crew to overcome what might have been a national tragedy, and the demise of later Apollo missions.

But these recent actions by NASA's OIG are certainly NOT NASA's finest hour, as public opinion clearly indicates.

Hopefully, some good will come out of this, and we can all praise NASA for being judicious in their decisions that will invariably affect all that collect, curate, and display Apollo era mementos.

onesmallstep
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posted 01-10-2012 04:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At least there's one place where astronauts or collectors cannot get their hands on pieces of flown documents or hardware — the Moon! NASA still considers everything left on its surface — from descent stages and LRVs to spent backpacks and US flags — to be government property. And with the decisions by California and New Mexico to declare the Apollo landing areas historic preservation sites, it could nudge NASA a little more to take its past history more seriously.

I doubt the recent astronaut memorabilia controversies do NASA any favors; it only highlights the historical (and legal) black hole it finds itself in. Hopefully, some light can escape and shed some well-needed resolution to all of this.

Spacefest
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posted 01-10-2012 04:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacefest   Click Here to Email Spacefest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I got an email today from a former astronaut:
I'm speaking to ______ at the end of the month. They wanted me to sign a NASA helmet for them. They want to buy mine. I only have two. What do you think I should sell it to them for? It isn't for charity.
I replied:
You should get clear, written title to it in light of what's going on now. And make sure the person giving the title will be recognized as a responsible authority after 2060.

YankeeClipper
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posted 01-11-2012 10:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In case NASA or anyone else doubts that there was damage done to the reputation and honor of Ed Mitchell, it is worth recalling comments in articles such as Universe Today back in Oct 2011.

One reader posted:

If they let Mitchell get away with this, it sets a dangerous precedent of allowing future astronauts to make off with decommissioned hardware with the intent of selling it later for personal gain.

Another was more blunt:

Frankly, that makes him a thief and, considering the value at which he is selling it, a felon. A felon.

It's not his camera. It never was his camera. NASA has apparently asked for it back several times and the astronaut is defending himself by citing the statute of limitations for THEFT in order to justify keeping it -- I mean, selling it for a profit.

Where I come from, terms like "lifted", "make off", "thief", and "felon" are perjorative and pretty damming.

As Gene Cernan said in the FOX News interview, they didn't have time for all the paperwork - they were going to the Moon. Jack Swigert proved that with his tax form prior to Apollo 13.

When NASA sorts this out, they need to make a VERY definitive statement that the astronauts' integrity is not in any doubt.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2012 10:43 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 YankeeClipper:
As Gene Cernan said in the FOX News interview, they didn't have time for all the paperwork - they were going to the Moon.
Without doubting Cernan at all, there were people at NASA whose sole job was to make sure the proper paperwork was filed. Not everyone at NASA is an engineer, scientist or pilot.

Rather, it seems Deke Slayton is partially at fault, though certainly not because he set out to cause problems. His decision to keep the astronauts' mementos private, while perhaps justified at the time, meant that paperwork that would have normally been archived back then is unavailable today.

If Slayton's lists of the approved equipment and PPK manifests had been treated like any other inventory control document, they very well could have resolved the current questions. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

SpaceAholic
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posted 01-11-2012 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slayton did not have statutory authority - from 40 USC section 545 which was in effect during the late 60's.
Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the Administrator of General Services may make or authorize a disposal or a contract for disposal of surplus property only after public advertising for bids, under regulations the Administrator prescribes.
The exceptions pertain to negotiated disposal or by abandonment, destruction, or donation or through a contract broker.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2012 11:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The question is did NASA have a policy directive in the 1960s-1970s paramount to the current NPD 4300.4D Use of Space Shuttle and Aerospace Vehicle Materials as Mementos, which does authorize NASA to dispose of property to individuals?

It would appear NASA did not, but then is a possible solution to the issue now one of retroactively extending the existing policy to its earlier programs?

Note, the current policy does include the following:

Mementos provided by NASA to its employees, its contractors, or other individuals will be restricted so that no further subdivision and sale of the material is practical. The recipient cannot utilize such gifts for profit-making purposes.
However, I believe this has been interpreted to apply only so long as the recipient is in the hire of NASA and/or the federal government.

SpaceAholic
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posted 01-11-2012 11:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even if an NPD had existed, in the event of conflict US Code would take precedent (the former is only internal agency policy, the latter - US law).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2012 11:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think it is fairly safe to say that all of the NASA Policy Directives have been vetted to be in compliance with U.S. law.

chet
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posted 01-11-2012 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slayton did have authority, empowered by Congress, to authorize such distributions and donations. The mistake was not having such minutia memorialized in writing, because it was minutia at the time.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2012 01:16 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 chet:
empowered by Congress
To what congressional act are you specifically referring?

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 01-11-2012 01:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
However, I believe this has been interpreted to apply only so long as the recipient is in the hire of NASA and/or the federal government.
What about those "other individuals," such as those who attended the NASA Tweetups, that received the pins containing shuttle-flown material? (This could also apply to the calendars, bookmarks and other material, but I'm asking specifically of the pins because of what they contain.)

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2012 01:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Since you are asking specifically about the pins, they were fabricated using metal ingots flown aboard the shuttle in an Official Flight Kit, thus the source metal does not fall under this particular policy directive (it is covered under a separate directive concerning mementos aboard space shuttle flights).

I have asked NASA for clarification, but I believe the "other individuals" as cited are still only restricted so long as they are in hire of the federal government.

chet
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posted 01-11-2012 01:50 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:
To what congressional act are you specifically referring?
I'm not referring to any specific act of Congress that specifically empowered Slayton, but to the fact that Congress empowered NASA to appoint individuals to make decisions in certain areas to get us to the moon.

Slayton's practices (of the handling of what went into astronauts' PPKs) and what mementos they were allowed to keep weren't challenged at the time, or for decades after, until some bureaucrats decided to start making waves.

It's lamentable Bolden, and the Apollo astronauts themselves, let matters get this far before taking action.

AJ
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From: Plattsburgh, NY, United States
Registered: Feb 2009

posted 01-11-2012 03:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AJ   Click Here to Email AJ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I don't think the astronauts are much to blame here. Do you really think it entered into anyone's mind, "hey maybe I shouldn't sell this, but heck, I'll do it anyway"?

I really don't believe that at any point did any of the astronauts think that NASA, the very organization they worked for and represented and risked their lives for would ever turn around and go so far as to sue them or imply to the American public that they did anything that wasn't above board.

It's easy now, in an age of frivolous lawsuits, to say that they should have known better, but we have the benefit of hindsight. So I can't really see blaming the astronauts for letting things get this far.

SRB
Member

Posts: 258
From:
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 01-11-2012 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While there were people at NASA who worked diligently to keep proper records, as far as I can find, NASA's Apollo period records for handling items flown on spacecraft is limited and incomplete. While some items may be track-able, there do not seem to be complete lists of what happened to each item returned to earth in each CM. If I am wrong, where are they? The Apollo stowage lists of what returned to earth are incomplete and do not have full identification numbers for many items it lists. That's why, in part, you need the astronauts to tell us if a item flew on a mission rather than it being a spare or training item.

As for the law governing the disposition of US property, if 40 USC section 545 is the exclusive method for conveying good title, then little or nothing owned by NASA will ever meet that test. Presentation pieces from NASA don't have paperwork supporting that the flag or patch or piece of heat shield were declared surplus and disposed of "properly". If there were NASA officials who could legally give away flown items, who were they? If Deke Slayton couldn't, could Thomas Paine do it? In short, if direct statutory authority and clear paperwork is the test today to show that someone else owns an item, most items NASA ever owned will flunk the test.

chet
Member

Posts: 1338
From: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-11-2012 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't blame the astronauts for doing anything with their mementos. The astronauts are "to blame" (in my opinion) only in that this Lovell-checklist matter likely wouldn't have come about had they grouped together as soon as the lawsuit against Mitchell was announced; they should've known that an agency willing to sue a former moonwalker over that DAC would soon be coming after more lucrative mission-flown astronaut-owned souvenirs.

As for SRB's comments that so many items would flunk NASA's formal de-acquisition tests, well, that is of course true. But it's also why accepted practices have been accepted practices... until relatively recently. Complex legalities, meant for utilization in curbing or preventing real abuse, were misapplied (along with common sense), resulting in the worldwide backlash against NASA's heavy-handed approach to its treatment of its own best ambassadors and spokesmen.

Collectors' best hopes lie in Bolden being truthful when he classified recent events as all being the result of miscommunications and misunderstandings (and promising meaningful correction of same).

SpaceAholic
Member

Posts: 3174
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-11-2012 05:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just because the paperwork is not immediately accessible via cyberspace doesn't necessarily exclude existence. There is quite a bit of documentation squirreled away in archives which can provide some answers.

Apollo stowage lists were never intended (nor do they) have the ability to validate actual flown hardware by serial number - it only indicates nomenclatures (by drawing number) of which multiple copies were produced and it only included mostly non-permanently installed components.

There was a very methodical process for laying out equipment and validating against the ASL prior to manifesting on the spacecraft:

With respect to 40 USC, its equally germane then and now; everybody recognizes NASA played loosey-goosey with the rules during the 60's but the current Administrator is bound by its provisions and whatever precedent he establishes in an attempt to resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the current claimants is going to have spill-over legal and ethical ramifications.

In my opinion, the only way this can be properly and permanently concluded is via congressional action.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29337
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-11-2012 05:51 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:
...NASA's heavy-handed approach to its treatment of its own best ambassadors and spokesmen.
I think it's worth pointing out again that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is independent from NASA. NASA cannot tell the IG what to do. Its charter is separate from NASA and is just one out of 63 offices that has oversight over federal agencies.

NASA had no say in the IG's decision to pursue Mitchell's Data Acquisition Camera.

In the current situation, NASA's General Counsel alerted Heritage Auctions of its concerns and notified the IG (as they are required to do). The meeting on Monday was an attempt to find a way to address these concerns before the IG decides to act. If the IG does decide to act, it will again be outside of NASA's control.


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