Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



Dinner Trivia: Astronauts Must Go Through Customs & Immigration

Space.com reported last week that 40 years ago, the Apollo 11 astronauts had to go through U.S. Customs upon returning from the moon. Please go to the following link to read the full article - http://www.space.com/news/090724-customs-apollo11.html

Commander Neil Armstrong, Colonel Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Lt. Colonel Michael Collins completed the General Declaration form and declared that they had received outside the United States samples of moon rock, moon dust and samples. They declared that they were at Cape Kennedy, Moon and Honolulu. Please go to the following link to review the signed customs form - http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=Apollo-11-Immigration-02.jpg&cap=A+copy+of+the+U.S.+Customs+form+filled+out+by+Apollo+11+astronauts+Neil+Armstrong%2C+Buzz+Aldrin+and+Michael+Collins+after+their+return+to+Earth+on+July+24%2C+2009.+Credit%3A+NASA%2FU.S.+Customs+and+Border+Patrol.

I do find the bureaucracy of customs enforcement fascinating - and that is why I am sharing this trivia. The information is unique and likely of little use to the average person. However, the issues faced by the astronauts are the same as average people - what to communicate in the General Declaration form.

We do not have any information on the declared value on the moon rocks, moon dust and samples for customs duty purposes or the tariff classifications used for the imported goods from the moon. What is the likelihood that the Customs officers would redetermine the stated value at a higher value than any declared value? The value for duty would be debatable. Many average people face these issues every day (albeit not in respect of moon rocks and moon dust).

Which tariff rate would apply? Since the Moon is not a country, the LDC rate would not apply. Since the Moon is not a member of the WTO, the MFN rate would not apply.

Would be the current day import controls apply? Would SPS measures apply to prevent space diseases?

What if the astronauts went into space and brought back a tribble (the cute fuzzy thing from a Star Trek episode), what would be the value for duty, tariff classification, statement of origin, import controls, etc.?

The article raises current day issues for the astronauts who live on the Space Station and receive goods from various countries. What are they to declare when they return to earth?

I might be labelled a geek for asking these questions - as a customs lawyer I am conditioned to ask these types of questions.

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