Tomorrow, July 31, is the final day of our Summer Reading Program. In keeping with its theme, “A Universe of Stories,” we ask today’s Space-related TriviaTuesday question:
On July 24, 1969, following their successful first-man-on-the-Moon mission, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins splashed down in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii. They were retrieved by the crew of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, where then-President Richard Nixon welcomed them home. Ultimately the astronauts were taken to a special location to undergo decontamination procedures to prevent any “Moon germs” infecting Earth. They passed the test.
Today’s question: What mammals were “used to check for germs” which the astronauts may have brought back to Earth?
A: In “Flying to the Moon...” Michael Collins, the sole surviving Apollo 11 astronaut, recalls that he, first-man-on-the-Moon Neil Armstrong and #2 Moonwalker Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were taken to a facility designed to “subject us and our Moon rocks to every possible test to make sure we had not brought any germs back from the Moon...”
“In addition to physical examinations for us and microscopic checks of the rocks, there was a colony of white mice that was used to check for germs. These mice had been born in the laboratory and for all their lives they had been kept free of external germs.
“The idea was to expose the mice to the Moon rocks. If the mice stayed healthy, then the Moon rocks must be safe and we were free to rejoin our families without fear of infecting anyone.
“As the days passed and the mice stayed healthy, our spirits rose, and finally, on August 10, 1969, the flight of Apollo 11 ended and we were released to the world...”