NASA are trying to play down news of a row with Apollo astronauts over the sale of artefacts from the space programme dating back to the 1960s and ‘70s.
Reports that Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell
has been forced, under legal threat from the space agency, to
return mementos he had hoped to put up for sale has thrown the
spotlight on disagreements that have arisen over who actually owns
NASA have issued an official statement
entitled Agency Will Work Cooperatively to Resolve Artifact
Ownership Issues, in which Administrator Charles Bolden said:
"Earlier today, I had a good meeting with former Apollo astronauts
Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Rusty Schweickart and other
representatives of former astronauts and agency personnel, where we
discussed how to resolve the misunderstandings and ownership
questions regarding flight mementos and other artifacts.
"These are American heroes, fellow
astronauts, and personal friends who have acted in good faith, and
we have committed to work together to find the right policy and
legal paths forward to address outstanding ownership questions.
"I believe there have been fundamental
misunderstandings and unclear policies regarding items from the
Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs, and NASA appreciates
the position of the astronauts, museums, learning institutions and
others who have these historic artifacts in personal and private
"We also appreciate their patience and will
explore all policy, legislative and other legal means to resolve
these questions expeditiously and clarify ownership of these
mementos, and ensure that appropriate artifacts are preserved and
available for display to the American people."
Some have questioned why it has taken NASA
the best part of 40 years to raise the issue when so much material
has been sold openly at auction amid widespread publicity.
It is also not clear how the dispute will
affect those involved in this area of the collectables market, but
any uncertainty over ownership rights will not be welcome.
Bonhams New York are due to hold their Space History Sale in
April. Their specialist, Matthew Haley, told ATG: "We are aware of
the situation and are monitoring it closely so as best to advise
our clients and continue these successful sales."