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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government has sued a former NASA astronaut to recover a camera used to explore the moon's surface during the 1971 Apollo 14 mission after seeing it slated for sale at a New York auction.
The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, accuses Edgar Mitchell of illegally possessing the camera and attempting to sell it for profit.
In March NASA learned that the British auction house Bonhams was planning to sell the camera at a Space History Sale, according to the suit filed on Wednesday.
The item was labelled "Movie Camera from the Lunar Surface" and billed as one of two cameras from the Apollo 14's lunar module Antares. The lot description said the item came "directly from the collection" of pilot Edgar Mitchell and had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 (37,400 pounds) to $80,000, the suit said.
Mitchell was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, which launched its nine-day mission in 1971 under the command of Alan Shepard. The sixth person to walk on the moon, Mitchell is now retired and runs a website selling his autographed picture.
He has made headlines for his stated belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life.
This story does much to shed light on Mitchell's mindset and desire for money. He knew it was stolen. He knew it was rare and worth keeping. Yet, he stole it...and tried to sell it.