One giant leap for mankind, two giant weeks of being stuck in a pod.
Today we have a story about being patient, that just might resonate with us in the current circumstances.
It’s on this day in 1969 that the Apollo 11 astronauts finally got a day off, after being in quarantine for weeks.
Actually, they were in quarantine both before and after the moon landing.
Scientists had been thinking about the potential risk of a “moon plague” as part of the mission preparations.
They didn’t think there were any dangerous microbes on the lunar surface, but the Apollo program came at a time when public health was finally making big progress against some of the worst diseases in the world.
So they figured, why not play it safe?
That’s why Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were in quarantine in the weeks leading up to launch. (It’s said that President Richard Nixon wanted to have dinner with the crew the night before they blasted off, but NASA had to say no.)
And on July 24th, when the Apollo 11 command module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, they were met by Navy rescue divers who brought them Biological Isolation Garments, or BIGs, as they scrubbed everything down with iodine.
They spent the next few days inside a modified Airstream trailer, a temporary isolation zone.
NASA flew them back to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, where they spent 15 more days in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory.
There was an airlock and ultraviolet light to deal with the moon germs, if there were any.
Everyone who was working there had to be disinfected at the end of each working day, at the risk of being quarantined themselves if necessary.
What did Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong do in quarantine?
They worked out, did medical exams, and played table tennis.
Neil Armstrong, who celebrated his birthday in the unit, took up the ukelele.
By the night of August 10th NASA was convinced there was no danger and the crew was able to go home to their families, though on their first full day off in more than a month, Collins and Aldrin had to go suit shopping for a post-moon landing press conference.
We love stories about augmented reality here, and that includes this one from Florence, Italy.
A team led by art historian Donal Cooper of the University of Cambridge has digitally recreated a walking tour through the church of San Pier Maggiore.
It was built around the year 1300, deconstructed in 1784, and now you can virtually check it out in 2020.
Digital resurrection (University of Cambridge)
Photo: “Interior view of a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), showing the Apollo 11 crewmen soon after they arrived at Ellington Air Force Base after a flight from Hawaii aboard a U.S. Air Force C141 jet transport.” via NASA