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Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in support of H.R. 4158, to confirm full ownership rights for certain United States astronauts to artifacts from the astronauts' space missions, and I thank the leadership of Mr. Hall and all of the cosponsors.
This is a necessary bill which will protect our iconic early astronauts from needless harassment. This bill will ensure that any U.S. astronaut who participated in the historic Mercury, Gemini, or the Apollo programs will be able to keep the space artifacts which are still in their possession from those missions.
At the time of these missions, it was accepted practice that astronauts could keep expendable equipment like checklists and hygiene kits as mementos of their missions. However, this was an informal policy, and those astronauts lacked paperwork establishing ownership over these items.
This bill will protect those astronauts from any claims made by the Federal Government regarding any of these artifacts. Further, the bill protects our national interest by ensuring that any lunar rocks or other lunar material remain property of the United States.
While I do support this bill and its passage today, I would be remiss if I didn't express my concern about a possible omission. This bill does not cover any of the shuttle-era astronauts. The first American woman in space and the first African American in space were both exclusively shuttle-era astronauts, and there were many other notable astronauts during this era.
I think these astronauts are no less national heroes than the Apollo-era astronauts and also no less deserving of that protection.
Now, I understand this is a more difficult issue since NASA has not been able to identify when its own internal policies changed regarding astronaut artifacts. But I do think we need to figure that out and then address those astronauts' situation as soon as possible.
I do want to thank Mr. Hall for his leadership and for working with all of us on this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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