The following statement is issued by Jeff Ollenburger, president and CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, in response to the U.S. Attorney’s filing of charges against former Cosmosphere President Max Ary.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Board of Directors and staff of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center have been saddened by the charges filed against Max Ary for the theft of artifacts from the Cosmosphere’s collection.

In the fall of 2003, the Cosmosphere’s internal inventory uncovered irregularities ­ and further investigation showed items were removed from the collection and sold improperly. Upon review of the information and materials gathered, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the NASA Inspector General’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation found they had sufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case against Mr. Ary. The Cosmosphere has cooperated fully with authorities as requested, and we will continue to do so.

These developments are troubling and we know anyone who has the best interests of the Cosmosphere in mind will share our concerns. But the responsibility for the investigation is in the hands of the federal authorities and we will join the rest of the community of Cosmosphere supporters in awaiting the outcome.

While this has been a very difficult time, the Cosmosphere is literally a steward of history, and our first and foremost priority is to preserve and protect the artifacts entrusted to us. We hope to have all the items returned to their rightful place in the Cosmosphere’s collection as soon as possible. These pieces of international space history belong to the public, and they must be preserved for the benefit of future generations. We have also taken a considerable number of steps to insure to the best of our abilities that such a theft does not occur again, including strengthening all policies related to the care and oversight of the collection and the security systems that monitor our facilities.

Even amidst these significant distractions, the board and entire staff of the Cosmosphere have remained focused on our mission to educate and inspire people of all ages through the wonder of spaceflight. We will continue to enhance, grow and expand the reach and impact the Cosmosphere has on the public and remain committed to ensuring a long and healthy future for the museum.

We want to thank our many supporters who are standing beside us during this difficult time and we want to assure everyone that the Cosmosphere remains one of the world’s most significant space museums and remains open for visitors.

Information regarding the specific charges filed can be found at:

Inquiries regarding the details of this case should be directed to Jim Cross at the United States Attorney’s Office, Wichita. Mr. Cross can be reached at 316.269.6481.