President Richard M. Nixon visits the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for Apollo 11. Aldrin is at right.
Buzz Aldrin knows a thing or two about quarantines. After returning from the Moon in 1969, Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins spent 21 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of any contagions they might have brought back from the lunar surface.
Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, I spoke with Aldrin on Tuesday by telephone. He is at home, hunkering down, and doing fine health-wise. Aldrin turned 90 years old in January, and at this age, he is in the very highest of risk categories for COVID-19.
"Buzz, what are you doing to protect yourself from the coronavirus?" I asked.
"Lying on my ass and locking the door," he replied, without hesitating.
Buzz Aldrin, ladies and gentlemen. A national treasure.
After the Apollo 11 Command Module landed in the Pacific Ocean, the three lunar astronauts were ushered from their life raft onto the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. Once aboard the ship, they immediately went into a converted Airstream trailer known as the mobile quarantine facility. This trailer was flown by a C-141 aircraft to Houston, where the crew subsequently spent about three weeks inside a "secure" building known as the Lunar Receiving Laboratory.
I asked Aldrin about this experience and if he had any advice for the hundreds of millions of Americans already in, or soon to be in, a semi-quarantine during which we are being encouraged not to leave our homes.
He laughed in response. "Well, Mike Collins and I used to exercise and jog a little bit around the hallway," he said. "We looked at this one crack in the floor, and there were ants crawling in and out." The implication, of course, is that if ants could get in, then microbes could also get in and out. Scientists would soon realize the Moon was an utterly dead world and that no life from there would be coming back to Earth.
So how did he spend his quarantine time? Taking care of mission reports, Aldrin said, and filling out paperwork, such as a government travel voucher that entitled him to $33.31 for his trip to the Moon.