During the dawn of human spaceflight, says collectSpace, astronauts and project managers were more focused on actually putting people into space than they were with tracking the legal ownership status of the souvenirs some of those men decided to take home with them when the job was done. That, it seems, has turned into a bit of a legal headache over the subsequent decades as aging astronauts seek to sell off, donate or otherwise do what they please with their treasured goods.
But, as collectSpace reports, a new law means that “America’s early space pioneers and moon voyagers have now been confirmed as the legal owners of the equipment and spacecraft parts they saved as souvenirs from their missions.”
The new law only applies to things that weren’t really meant to survive the missions, either because they were intended to be left on the Moon or destroyed, or disposables such as toothbrushes, which aren’t likely to be thought of as historical treasures. And it only applies to relics from space missions that took place from 1961 to 1975.
That being said, some of these obscure objects, such as Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin’s toothbrush, have been known to fetch a hefty price at auction. Aldrin’s sold for $18,400 in 2004. This legislation also throws into the realm of possibility a scenario imagined by The Onion. (It is satirical.)
More from Smithsonian.com:
The Apollo 11 Owners’ Workshop Manual