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The Apollo 11 astronauts quarantined after returning to Earth. Here's why

March 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 21.3%. 2 min read.

Just weeks after becoming the first man to walk on the moon, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong celebrated his 39th birthday in quarantine.

(CNN)Just weeks after becoming the first man to walk on the moon, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong celebrated his 39th birthday in quarantine.

He, along with fellow astronauts Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin served a 21-day quarantine after their historic mission to the moon caused them to interact with lunar material.

Doctors closely monitored the astronauts, while a separate team tested and studied the lunar rocks and dust brought back by the astronauts.

The astronauts' 21-day quarantine officially began when the hatch of the Eagle lunar lander closed on July 21, before Aldrin and Armstrong reunited with Collins on the Columbia module circling the moon and began their three-day journey back to Earth.

It was baked and decorated by staff in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at what is now Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the astronauts spent the majority of their quarantine.

Quarantining astronauts after lunar landings continued for the Apollo 12 and 14 missions, but didn't last for the duration of the Apollo program, once scientists were sure there was no danger for the astronauts or anyone they encountered upon their return to Earth.

Plans to quarantine astronauts who interacted with the lunar surface and how to handle lunar material began early on in 1963, with the formation of the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination, said Brian C.

Quarantining the astronauts after they returned and seeing whether they encountered any health issues seemed like the best way to handle the unknown variables of the moon.

The lunar samples were vacuum-sealed and the astronauts would quarantine for 21 days, based on their knowledge of how long it took for symptoms to arise when humans are presented with an invading host, Odom said.

The astronauts complained about the BIG suits and how hot they felt inside of them, so the suits were modified for the following Apollo missions, Odom said.

Apollo 12 and 14 followed a similar quarantine protocol, but by the time the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions came along, NASA was confident that a quarantine was no longer necessary after coming in contact with the lunar surface.

When humans return to the lunar surface in 2024 through the Artemis program, post-landing quarantine won't be necessary either, thanks to knowledge gained from the Apollo program, said Nilufar Ramji, strategic communications specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

A day in the astronaut quarantine life

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