Government Sues Apollo Astronaut For Allegedly Stealing a Lunar Camera

NASA officials learned last March that a British auction house had an item labeled "Movie Camera from the Lunar Surface" as part of their Space History Sale. The camera was described in the catalog as being one of two used aboard Apollo 14's lunar module, Antares, and had come directly from the collection of astronaut Edgar Mitchell (pictured, right, with fellow Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard, center, and Stuart Allen Roosa, left), whose epitaph will most likely begin with the phrase, "Sixth man to walk on the moon." Estimated value: $60 to $80k. Now the U.S. government is suing to get that camera back.

Filed in Miami federal court today, the lawsuit accuses Mitchell of "illegally possessing the camera and attempting to sell it for profit." Mitchell maintains the camera was gifted to him by NASA after his 1971 space walk. "Objects from the lunar trips to the moon were ultimately mounted and then presented to the astronauts as a gift after they had helped NASA on a mission," his lawyer said.

I don't know who to believe — but I do know that the concept of a crack team of astronaut thieves, running around hotwiring Space Shuttles and Mars Rovers, is the best movie franchise idea I've heard since The Fast and the Furious. Get cracking, Hollywood! [Reuters, photo via Getty]