President Nixon Visiting the Apollo 11 Crew in Quarantine, 1969

By | January 5, 2017

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy with the astronauts carried into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. Approximately 530 million people witnessed Armstrong’s televised manifesto on July 20, 1969 when he described the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

On, July 24, 1969, at 11:49 a.m. (CDT), Apollo 11 splashed down about 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii and only 12 nautical miles from the USS Hornet. Right after, the astronauts were quarantined inside a NASA trailer just in case they brought back any germs or disease from the moon.

In the photo from left to right: Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Lunar module pilot.

Prior to the Apollo missions, NASA barely knew anything about the moon, whether it harbored infectious microbes or “space germs”. The resolve was to quarantine the Apollo 11 crew upon returning earth from their lunar landing.

As soon as they were plucked out of the sea, the astronauts suit up with anti-contamination ensemble. Then they will be sealed off for three weeks within a converted Airstream trailer called the Mobile Quarantine Facility, or MQF. This facility functioned by sustaining a lower pressure inside and then filtering any air vented. It has living and sleeping quarters, as well as communications used by astronauts to converse with their families.

But then years later, the quarantine precaution was uncovered to be more of a political action, to prevent civilians from panicking in case one astronaut became sick soon after the trip. Apparently, the seal of the MQF was of poor quality and the astronauts even joked at how terribly enclosed they were as they could see down from the cracks and fissures inside the container. They even mentioned to have noticed ants and other insects in the cabin.

The stipulation for quarantine was eliminated after Apollo 14 during 1971 when it was already proven that the moon was entirely void of life including moon pathogens, and using the MQF was no longer essential.

H/T RareHistoricalPhotos