NASA hasn’t come for her moon dust yet, but Laura Cicco is ready for it. In a lawsuit filed against the space agency last week, Cicco asserts her lawful ownership of the vial of grey dust, which an expert cited in court documents state “may have originated” on the moon.
According to Cicco’s lawsuit, the vial was given to her by Neil Armstrong, who was friends with her father through his service in the U.S. Army Air Corps, work for the Federal Aviation Administration and reported membership in the aviation group “The Quiet Birdmen.” Along with the vial, Cicco also has a note, addressed to her and with best wishes from Armstrong.
Cicco’s preemptive suit is not paranoia; NASA has a history of attempting to regain possession of lunar artifacts in general, and moon rocks allegedly given as gifts by Neil Armstrong specifically. In 2011, when Joann Davis attempted to sell such a moon rock to try and raise money for her son’s medical care, she was the target of a sting that saw her detained and questioned by federal agents who suspected she obtained the rock by less than legal means. She was never charged and eventually reached a $100,000 settlement over the detention.
“If you look at the Davis case, what NASA is essentially saying is that lunar material in private hands is stolen property. And that’s just not true,” Cicco’s attorney, Christopher McHugh told The Washington Post. “This is not stolen property. Laura shouldn’t be afraid that NASA is going to come knocking on her door and barge in and try and take the vial.”