Apollo 11 Intrigue

Splash landing

Returning from the Moon as heroes:
How to get back to Earth

After making history on the Moon, the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on July 24, 1969

The conditions inside the command module during re-entry were surprisingly calm


“There wasn’t any sizzling, popping, or any noises that you commonly associate with entry heating,” said Collins

Hurtling through the atmosphere, the spaceship threw off sparks as its protective heat shield charred away. The spacecraft lost contact as it was surrounded by ionized gases from the heat of re-entry.

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin splashed down at 11:49 a.m. (CDT) on July 24, 1969, into the Pacific Ocean

About 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii

Nearby, the United States Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet was waiting to receive the Apollo crew

Navy divers helped retrieve the astronauts, who were given isolation suits and picked up in a helicopter to be taken to the ship. But the adventure did not end there.

In case the Moon had any traces of biological pathogens, the returning astronauts had to stay in quarantine for 21 days

From outside the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), President Nixon welcomed the astronauts back from their mission. In a first for NASA, the crew had to watch the traditional cake-cutting ceremony from inside the MQF.

The MQF was offloaded from the Hornet and flown to Houston, where the astronauts reunited with their wives at the window

Once in Houston, the crew were transferred into the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, where Armstrong celebrated his 39th birthday still under quarantine

The astronauts were celebrated with ticker-tape parades in New York City, Houston, and Chicago