This picture, taken on the 24th of July, 1969, shows the newly-arrived Apollo 11 astronauts meeting with then-President Richard Nixon shortly after their arrival back to Earth. From left to right, Neil Armstrong, Micheal Collins, and Buzz Aldrin can be seen peeking through the window of their mobile quarantine facility as they have a talk with the President. The astronauts had to complete a three-week-long quarantine immediately after arriving home from the Moon, just in case they had brought anything dangerous back to Earth – such as an alien pathogen, or a possible infection from lunar material. Although NASA scientists considered this to be an extremely unlikely event, it was still technically possible, and so every precaution was taken in order to ensure there was no opportunity to spread theoretical contagions.
Sailing through the Pacific Ocean near the planned landing zone of the Apollo 11 mission, President Nixon and other NASA scientists were on board the U.S.S. Hornet, the vessel on which this photograph was taken, waiting to recover the astronauts after they had made their re-entry to Earth. President Nixon in particular wanted to greet the astronauts and commemorate them for their incredible success in completing the first lunar landing mission; however, he would not be able to shake the astronauts’ hands personally until three weeks later when their quarantine would end.
The quarantine facility itself was a transportable pod that was built from a modified Airstream-brand trailer. Inside the facility, the astronauts had a living room area and a kitchen, complete with a microwave to make ready-made meals – there was also an airlock to safely transport items to the astronauts inside. The trailer itself was designed to be capable of being transported by truck, boat, or airplane, and the astronauts would continue living inside of it whilst aboard the H.S.S. Hornet until their eventual arrival and transferral to a larger quarantine facility in Houston.