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"Moon Germs": Why Apollo 11 Astronauts Were Quarantined After Return

"Moon Germs": Why Apollo 11 Astronauts Were Quarantined After Return

August 19, 2021

The Fear of "Moon Germs"

Sending humans to the Moon for the first time was a huge accomplishment in human history. However, when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins successfully returned from their lunar mission on July 24, 1969, they weren't allowed to celebrate their success with the enthusiastic public. Instead, they were immediately quarantined due to the concern of "Moon Germs." Kind of crazy given that our world currently faces a global pandemic . . .  Or is it?

PC: NASA

Since NASA had no prior knowledge of what may be found on the Moon, they wanted to take precaution of what could be brought back with the astronauts. So, the lunar quarantine program was made to ensure that lunar material brought back from the Moon, posed "no threat to public health, to agriculture, or to other living resources." 

PC: NASA

The three Astronauts were held in a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQFs) with sleeping and living quarters, a kitchen and a bathroom. For 3 weeks the men were isolated in essentially a camper van before scientists could confirm that the Astronauts were not a threat to the American public. Sounds a bit familiar, huh? Just like the COVID-19 quarantine, the Apollo 11 astronauts found ways to entertain themselves by playing cards, reading magazines, listening to the media coverage and making sourdough bread. Okay, maybe not the last one   . . . but these astronauts must have had to get creative! Unlike our pandemic quarantine experience, the Astronauts weren't even allowed to go on a walk outside to breathe fresh air. In fact, Neil Armstrong spent his 39th birthday cooped up in the MQF, after becoming the first man to walk on the moon!

And it wasn't just the Apollo 11 crew who were quarantined. Apollo 12, and 14 astronauts were also held in MQFs following their lunar missions. After extensive tests and studies conducted during each mission, it was determined that no life exists on the Moon and that there was no threat to life on Earth. The lunar quarantine program was discontinued after Apollo 14, but lunar samples still remain protected for preservation purposes.

 



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