A Tennessee woman who claims to be the legal owner of a vial of moon dust that she says was given to her by Neil Armstrong has sued NASA. The woman says that when she was 10, her mother gave her a glass vial with the typical orange rubber stopper containing a greyish dust along with one of her father’s business cards. On the back of the card, a message was written that says “To Laura Ann Murray – Best of Luck – Neil Armstrong Apollo 11.” Although she kept the message from Armstrong in her bedroom, that was the last time that Cicco saw the vial until she found it after her parents died five years ago. Now, she’s suing to keep NASA from getting it back.
After leaving NASA, Armstrong taught at the University of Cincinnati. She claims that her father, who was a pilot, and Armstrong became friends in Cincinnati, and that’s where her father received Armstrong’s gift for her.
Laura Ann Murry is now Laura Ann Cicco, and she’s adamant that the vial contains a moon surface sample from Armstrong, who in 1969, was the first person to set foot on the moon. An expert in autograph documentation has authenticated Armstrong’s signature on Cicco’s behalf. Another expert has examined the dust itself. He concluded that it may well be of lunar origin. Cicco, maintains that she is the lawful owner of the vial and it’s contents, and she’s seeking a judgment against NASA that declares her to be the true and lawful owner. NASA has yet to make a claim to the moon dust, but it apparently has a history of making claims against private individuals who are in possession of lunar materials.
According to Fortune, there is no statutory or regulatory authority that gives NASA ownership of all things lunar, regardless of the fact that NASA claims otherwise. Cicco’s lawsuit is preemptive in nature. In 2011, NASA was involved in a sting operation with a 74 year-old woman who was trying to sell a paperweight with a tiny amount of the dust inside of it. She also sued NASA, and the parties entered into a six figure settlement. NASA has yet to respond to the Cicco lawsuit, but it is expected to answer or otherwise plead shortly.