Melania Trump’s Apollo 11 NFTs Violate NASA Guidelines

Melania Trump released her latest collection of nonfungible tokens (NFTs), this time commemorating humanity’s giant leap on the Moon with a famous photo of NASA Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the lunar surface. There’s just one thing though: NASA does not approve the use of its imagery for the digital tokens.

The former first lady released the Apollo 11 NFT collection on Wednesday, just one day before the 54th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The limited edition collectible is called “Man on the Moon” and costs $75. It also includes an embedded audio file that “collectors will unlock” upon purchase.

The “Man on the Moon” NFT uses one of the most iconic images from NASA’s mission to the Moon, which landed two astronauts on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. The image was taken by mission commander Neil Armstrong and shows Aldrin near the leg of the lunar module Eagle on the surface of the Moon.

Melania Trump’s latest token, shown above, clearly displays an image belonging to NASA.
Image: USA Memorabilia/NASA/Gizmodo

NASA’s images are generally not copyrighted and are made available for use to serve educational or informational purposes. The space agency, however, draws the line when it comes to NFTs.

In its Regulations for Merchandising Requests, the space agency states, “NASA is not approving any merchandising applications involving Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), as they are not consistent with the categories of products the Agency is approved to merchandise.” The merchandising regulations also echo another condemnation of the use of NASA images for NFTs, referring to the space agency’s Media Usage Guidelines in which NASA clearly states, “NASA does not wish for its images to be used for these purposes.”

It’s safe to say that NASA hates NFTs as much as we do, and the space agency has made it clear that it really, really doesn’t want its content to be used for the purpose of creating digital tokens. It’s unclear, however, whether NASA can do anything about it since its imagery is public domain.

The guidelines seem to stress that the space agency would rather its images not be used for that purpose but that they are not necessarily protected by copyright law, which makes them fair game. NASA did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Others have used NASA imagery for NFTs before. In April 2021, Anicorn Watches released the first NASA-branded NFT that sold for more than $41,000. As far as we know, NASA never really addressed the digital artwork. The space agency could also ignore Trump’s latest NFT collection, or might use it as an opportunity to protect its content from unwanted usage.

For more spaceflight in your life, follow us on Twitter and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.

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