EBay yanks space shuttle debris auctions

Internet auction site eBay Inc. moved quickly to prevent people from auctioning purported debris from the space shuttle Columbia after it was destroyed in an accident Saturday.

Some people began hawking what they said was debris from the shuttle just hours after the breakup of the craft flashed across the world's TV screens.

EBay pulled at least two auctions from the Web site within the first 12 hours after the disaster, one headlined "Columbia Space Shuttle Debris" with an initial price of $10,000 and another headlined "Space Shuttle Columbia Debris Wreckage" with a price tag of $5,000. Clicking on the links brought up a message saying the auction was either "invalid, still pending or no longer in our database."

The company on Sunday issued a statement regarding the listing of debris on the Web site.

"The handling of any debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia is potentially dangerous and against Federal law," it said. "Any listing of shuttle debris on eBay, now or in the future, will be immediately removed from the site. In addition, eBay will cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies requesting information about users attempting to list illegal items."

The number of items yanked from the site numbered no more than a handful, said Kevin Pursglove, a spokesman for eBay. "My guess is it was around 10. Based on past experience, I would guess a good number were pranks. However it is possible that someone had retrieved some debris and was selling it on eBay."

Several auctions selling Internet domain names associated with the incident were also pulled from the service, including columbiadebris.com and missionsts107.com. Whether the seller possessed the domains was unclear. A search of Network Solutions Inc.'s domain name database showed each was unregistered.

Such auctions made up a small portion of the more than 1,000 listings for Columbia-related memorabilia that filled the site from Saturday. Many were for photographs or mission patches, but also included were items such as plastic modeling kits, magazines and a few of the heat tiles offered when Columbia made its first flight.

Special edition regional newspapers dated Saturday were also for sale.

By Sunday afternoon, the number of Columbia-related items had reached more than 3,200.

EBay started a discussion board related to the tragedy, and it was soon full of messages expressing condolences for the astronauts' families and shock at some of the sales being posted on the Web site.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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