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Public Statements

Confirming Full Ownership Rights to Artifacts from Astronauts' Space Missions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALAZZO. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4158. This legislation will resolve a conflict that has emerged within NASA over the last decade regarding the ownership of artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Left unresolved, as Chairman Hall pointed out, astronauts, their families, and those to whom they transferred, donated, or sold artifacts may not have clear title to them. If NASA persists in its efforts to reacquire these items that were initially received by the astronauts 40 years or more ago, significant financial consequences could befall them.

In the 1960s, as NASA began the Mercury program, agency managers allowed astronauts to carry a small number of mementos in their spacecraft. As the spacecraft became larger and larger and mission duration increased, the agency's policy evolved to allow astronauts to retain expendable personal gear such as shaving equipment, undergarments, notebooks, and expendable space suits.

During the lunar landing phase of the Apollo program, the policy further changed to allow astronauts to retrieve from the lunar lander certain pieces of hardware that would have been destroyed had it remained in the lander.

With full knowledge and consent of program managers, the astronauts were allowed to fly personal mementos as well as retain certain pieces of equipment. It is incredible to me that NASA now wants to penalize those who acted in good faith by attempting to retrieve these items.

H.R. 4158 is a necessary bill to bring closure to the debate and uncertainty regarding ownership of a small class of space artifacts. I urge all Members to support this legislation.


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