Confirming Full Ownership Rights to Artifacts from Astronauts' Space Missions

Floor Speech

By:  Lamar Smith
Date: Sept. 19, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my good friend and Texas colleague, Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall, for taking the lead on this bill and bringing it to the floor today. My hope is that after the House passes this bill the Senate will act quickly and send it to the President for his signature.

The problem this bill addresses is to confirm the ownership of mementoes the Apollo astronauts received from their journeys. I was first contacted one year ago about this problem by my constituent, Apollo 16 moonwalker Charlie Duke, who now lives in New Braunfels, Texas and also chairs the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

The Scholarship Foundation is one of the beneficiaries from the sale of such artifacts, and they have provided over $3 million in scholarships to college students studying science and engineering so they too can aspire to be astronauts.

At the end of the Apollo program, these mementoes were deemed to be of little value, and NASA was simply going to throw many of these items in the trash heap of history--checklists with scribbled equations and calculations in the margins, a camera and other personal effects the Apollo astronauts were offered to keep for themselves.

However, in the intervening 40 years, these mementoes took on a greater historical context, just like mementoes from past wars or famous people take on greater significance. Unfortunately, over-zealous NASA and the Justice Department lawyers recently started filing law suits against Apollo astronauts--our American heroes--and started questioning their integrity.

This is wrong. And this bill clarifies the ownership of these artifacts in the possession of our astronauts.

Chairman Hall, thank you for doing the right thing--once again--for our astronauts.

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