House Passes Bill to Clarify Astronaut Ownership of Mementos from Apollo-Era Space Missions

Sep 19, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives today unanimously approved H.R. 4158, a bipartisan bill introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) to confirm full ownership rights to artifacts received by Apollo-era astronauts from their space missions.

Describing the bill, Chairman Hall said, “This bill seeks to eliminate any further ambiguity about Apollo-era artifacts that were received by the astronauts.  It simply says that astronauts who flew through the end of the Apollo program will be granted full right of ownership of any artifacts received from their missions.”

“These men are heroes,” Hall continued.  “They took extraordinary risks to establish American preeminence in space, and by doing so helped our country become a world leader.  I think it is a miscarriage of justice that today NASA should seek return of these very same mementos and keepsakes.” VIDEO HERE

Throughout the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, NASA managers routinely allowed astronauts, at the conclusion of a mission, to keep mementos, pieces of hardware, and personal equipment from the spacecraft.  However, beginning in the mid-2000s, NASA began to challenge the ownership of these artifacts by Apollo-era astronauts.  As a result, rightful ownership of artifacts has been brought into question, exposing astronauts to possible damages if ownership is not clearly established.

H.R. 4158 confirms full ownership rights of these mementos, but specifically excludes lunar rocks and material.  The bill was introduced by Chairman Hall and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), along with 33 bipartisan cosponsors, including 25 Members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.