Ex-Space Museum Chief Says He Traded Items
WICHITA, Kan. — A former space museum president testified Friday at his theft trial that he sometimes traded his own space and astronaut artifacts to obtain items for the museum.
Max Ary also is charged with fraud and money laundering for allegedly stealing and selling items that belonged to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. His lawyer said Ary’s personal artifacts and items that didn’t belong to him were accidentally mixed together.
Two former astronauts have testified in Ary’s defense, including Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.
A NASA investigator testified earlier that Ary made about $65,000 selling Cosmosphere and NASA items at space memorabilia auctions in 2000 and 2001.
Ary testified Friday that he often used some of his own artifacts to barter for items for the Cosmosphere. He said he obtained 10 Apollo hand controllers, to use on simulators at the museum’s space camp, by trading a small rocket engine that was part of his collection.
High school volunteers sometimes helped inventory space items, and a fourth or fewer of the 40,000 to 50,000 pieces of hardware that came into the Cosmosphere were inventoried, Ary said.
Ary left the Cosmosphere in May 2002 after 26 years at the museum he helped found.