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A Ridiculous Situation PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

James Oberg has just sent me a news item that would probably escape your attention, but has me personally enraged. It involves an American hero, someone with whom I strongly disagree because of – in my view – his outrageous statements concerning alien landings – we’re talking Mars and/or intergalactic here – and paranormal claims. I refer to 80-year-old Edgar Mitchell, one of the brave astronauts who chose to venture into outer space to add to our knowledge of that part of our surroundings. He was the sixth man to have walked on our Moon, in 1971. He retired from NASA a year later.

I have unlimited respect for all of these pioneers, some of whom gave their lives while volunteering to educate us. The recent news item says that our federal government has decided to sue Dr. Mitchell. Why? Because he offered to sell – by auction – a souvenir that he chose to salvage from his lunar adventure, a camera that would otherwise have been simply left behind on the Moon! Bonhams auction house, a UK-based agency, has now pulled the camera from a planned May 5 sale, where they estimated that it could fetch as much as $80,000.

Our government, alarmed at this discovery, claims that Mitchell was trying to sell property that wasn't his. Their indignant lawyers, in the action against the astronaut, smugly stated:

Defendant Edgar Mitchell is a former NASA employee who is exercising improper dominion and control over a NASA Data Acquisition Camera.

Come on, folks, this is just one piece of what NASA deems “space junk,” a throwaway, a tiny, tiny fraction of the tons of material that was shot into space or simply left behind on the Moon, probably never to be seen again.  Where does the government get the strange notion that this item, which they insist comes under their “dominion and control,” calls for special treatment?

To show you just how unreasonable this action is, consider an additional fact: astronaut Alan Bean reports that the astronauts – heroes, remember! – were ordered to return to NASA anything they got in connection with their official duties. He recalls that he was forced to return a dagger and his wife to hand over a bracelet that they received as gifts in Morocco when he and other astronauts took part in a worldwide goodwill tour. Other astronauts have – literally – dozens of objects they salvaged from their adventures, and as a taxpayer, I’m quite willing to allow them to keep such items and dispose of them in any way they wish. I feel that my readers will agree with me on this point, but the U.S. government can’t wait to get back any and all of these mementos – and destroy them.

Astronauts Bean and Pete Conrad took two cameras to the Moon in 1969 which stayed there. For consistency, I suggest that NASA should send another flotilla of missions to Luna to gather up all the space junk and return it to Earth – where it can be officially and safely destroyed.

Edgar Mitchell shouldn't be faulted. I’m offended by this lawsuit, and I believe that somewhere in the legal system there will be lawyers who could and just might wish to take up this matter and defend him in court. How embarrassing that the rest of the world sees us as such a fussy bureaucracy with no sense of compassion or common sense.