Obama signs bill giving Apollo astronauts ownership of space artifacts

The legislation was introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas) in response to attempts by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to claim ownership of some artifacts from Apollo mission, such as mission logs, flight manuals and other mementos. NASA's attempt to recapture some of these artifacts was exposing Apollo astronauts to liability, and was complicating efforts by some astronauts to sell or donate some of these articles.

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Just before the bill passed the House, Hall said the Apollo astronauts are "heroes" who should not be required to return articles from their space missions.

"They took extraordinary risks to establish American preeminence in space, and by doing so helped our country become a world leader," he said on the House floor. "I think it is a miscarriage of justice that today NASA should seek return of these very same mementos and keepsakes."

The bill only allows astronauts to keep man-made artifacts from their missions, and does not let them keep moon rocks. It was signed into law exactly one month after the death of Neil Armstrong, who became the first man to walk on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.