Woman sues NASA so she can keep a vial of moon dust given to her by Neil Armstrong

The vial of dust could be worth a significant amount of money, considering a few moon rocks have been sold for $100,000

                            Woman sues NASA so she can keep a vial of moon dust given to her by Neil Armstrong
Astronaut Neil Armstrong (Getty Images)

A woman from Tennessee is suing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) so she can keep a vial of moon dust which her father's friend, astronaut Neil Armstrong, brought for her from his Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Laura Murray Cicco sued NASA last week in federal court in an attempt to ensure that she could keep the moon dust, which she says is rightfully hers. The woman has initiated the lawsuit as a precautionary measure in the event the space agency tries to take the vial away from her. Reports state that NASA has tried to do the same from other private citizens in the past.

The woman said that the vial of the lunar material was presented to her when she was just 10 years old. Her mother handed her the glass vial of grayish material, which had a note attached to it that read: "To Laura Ann Murray - Best of Luck - Neil Armstrong Apollo 11."

Cicco said that, although she kept the note from the astronaut marking his historic landing to the moon, she never saw the vial after that day. She, however, accidentally found it five years ago when she was cleaning out her parents' house after they passed away, according to Washington Post.

"I came running where my husband was and I said, 'This is the vial of moon dust. I have it,'" Cicco said. "At that time, we didn't really know what to do with it," she added.

Her father, Tom Murray, who was friends with Armstrong, was a pilot for the US Army Air Corps during World War II and for the Federal Aviation Administration. Both Murray and Armstrong were reportedly members of a secretive club of male pilots called the Quiet Birdmen.

Cicco, in her lawsuit, argued that Armstrong gave the moon dust to her as a gift in the 1970s and the vial hence rightfully belongs to her. The suit claimed that the lunar dust has reportedly been analyzed and it was concluded that the sample "may have originated" from the moon's surface.

According to Cicco's attorney, Christopher McHugh, the handwritten note by Armstrong has also been authenticated by a handwriting expert.

Even though one test concluded the mineralogy is consistent with the known composition of lunar soil, the other stated that the sample's composition was similar to the "average crust of Earth," according to the Washington Post.

The expert, however, added that despite the findings "it would be difficult to rule out lunar origin" and that it is possible that some dust from Earth "mingled with this likely lunar sample."

One of the few photographs of Neil Armstrong on the moon shows him working on his spacecraft on the lunar surface (Getty Images)

Reports state that the vial of dust could be worth a significant amount of money, considering a few moon rocks were sold for $100,000. The rocks, however, were not authenticated by a letter from Armstrong. 

The moon rocks, however, were seized from an elderly couple by NASA, as the space agency alleged that the rocks were stolen and were not private property.

The elderly woman, Joann Davis, later sued the organization, saying that the rocks were given to her by her late husband, Robert Davis, who got them from Armstrong. Joann later won $100,000 from the government in a settlement, according to reports.

Cicco's attorney is reportedly citing the elderly couple's case in his client's lawsuit.

"If you look at the Joann Davis case, what NASA is essentially saying is that lunar material in private hands is stolen property. And that's just not true," McHugh said, adding, "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."