July 24 – Anniversary of a Splashdown!

Posted on July 24, 2016

In years past, I wrote about Moon Day, which is the anniversary of humans taking their first steps on the moon. 

Which is even more historic because those steps were the first steps humans have taken on any other world.

But today is the anniversary of another important part of that moon landing – it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 astronauts safely landing on Earth again!

It was President John F. Kennedy who set the goal in 1961, saying, I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Well, on July 16, 1969, the world watched as Apollo 11 took off. 

On July 19 we were informed that the astronauts had entered the planned orbit around the moon. 

On July 20, we listened for the momentous words “The Eagle has landed, and a few hours later we watched (with very excited “bated breath”) as Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin carefully climbed down the Lunar Module's ladder and onto the moon's surface. Many of us cheered at Armstrong's words, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

And on this date in 1969, the last part of President Kennedy's ambitious goal was realized – the astronauts were returned safely to Earth. Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, and NASA quickly confirmed that the astronauts were safe.

Here the three astronauts, wearing biological isolation garments, have been joined by a U.S. Navy swimmer (also wearing a biological isolation garment). They are all sitting in a raft next to their spacecraft, and they are waiting for a helicopter to pick them up from the USS Hornet, which was chosen as the recovery ship for the lunar mission.

The biological isolation garments (BIGs) were a step taken in case the astronauts had become infected by some sort of unknown moon germ. We have not ever discovered any sort of life anywhere other than Earth, so far – not even germs or bacteria – but we didn't know for sure whether or not such germs might exist on the moon.

The astronauts were scrubbed with disinfectant. They had to remain in isolation (or quarantine) for 21 days! Here they are being greeted and congratulated by then-President Richard Nixon on the Hornet. They are inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility. Later they got to move to a much larger quarantine facility.

And of course, they eventually got out of quarantine and got to do a bit of this:

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