Neil Armstrong left an indelible mark on the US space program, but for Laura Murray Cicco, he did more than simply land on the moon. Cicco claimed Armstrong gifted her a vial of dust from the moon -- a claim she now has to fight in US District Court.
Cicco claimed when she was 10 years old, her mother gave her a glass vial with a stopper that had silvery/grey dust, according to court documents.
The vial also came with one of her dad's business cards. The back of said card held a very special and personalized message from Neil Armstrong: To Laura Ann Murray – Best of Luck – Neil Armstrong Apollo 11.” Cicco claimed in court documents that her mother told her the vial contained moon dust samples taken by Armstrong himself during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
While Cicco's story might sound too good to be true, experts have thoroughly scrutinized the note left for Cicco. The handwriting and signature all match those of Armstrong, and thus the signature is assumed to be real.
“Astronaut Neil Armstrong gifted the vial of lunar dust at issue to Laura Ann Murray, now Laura Murray Cicco, when she was a child, and she is the rightful and legal owner of the vial and its contents. Therefore, she requests judgment declaring her the rightful and legal owner of the vial and its contents, and vesting title in her name,” according to the court documents.
Court documents noted the following facts.
"Before he was an astronaut, Armstrong served as a naval aviator in the
Korean War aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. After leaving the space program, Armstrong taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Armstrong was friends with Tom Murray (Cicco's father).
"Murray was a top pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. He trained
pilots for the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. In 1962, Murray and his wife had a daughter, Laura Ann Murray. In 1969 or 1970, the Murray family moved to Cincinnati.
"The signature of Armstrong on the card has been authenticated by an expert. XRD and XRF testing show the glass vial contains lunar material. A copy of
the testing report is attached as Exhibit 3."
Chemists from Bruker Corporation based in Billerica, Massachusetts, told the court that the sample of space dust was "consistent with the known composition of lunar regolith." Thus, NASA wants its space dust back. This challenges a law put forth by former president Barack Obama in 2012 that gave astronauts right to artifacts they collected during space travel and space missions.
“A United States astronaut who participated in any of the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo programs through the completion of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, who received an artifact during his participation in any such program, shall have full ownership of and clear title to such artifact,” according to law. However, there's a loophole, as the law “does not include lunar rocks and other lunar material.”