Extraterrestrial exposure quarantine laws and Apollo 11

President Richard Nixon greets Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin during their quarantine, July 24, 1969, via NASA.

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing. But less discussed about this historical incident is the quarantine that took place after the astronauts landed.

The astronauts were quarantined from their splashdown on July 24, 1969 until their release on the evening of August 10--18 days of isolation to ensure that they did not bring back any contaminants from the moon.

The quarantine procedures were set forth in 14 C.F.R. § 1211 (now long since amended) in a part entitled "Extraterrestrial Exposure." The scope of the regulation:

This part establishes: (a) NASA policy, responsibility and authority to guard the Earth against any harmful contamination or adverse changes in its environment resulting from personnel, spacecraft and other property returning to the Earth after landing on or coming within the atmospheric envelope of a celestial body; and (b) security requirements, restrictions and safeguards that are necessary in the interest of national security.

It authorizes NASA to establish quarantine procedures and standards to evaluate who should be quarantined and when it is safe to release a person from quarantine.

The regulation was filed on July 15, 1969 (45 years ago today), and appeared in the Federal Register at 34 Fed. Reg. 11975 on July 16, 1969--the day of the Apollo 11 launch. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that it includes this effective date:

Effective date. In light of the Apollo 11 space mission and the need to guard the Earth against extraterrestrial contamination, it is hereby determined that compliance with section 553 of Title 5 of the United States Code is impracticable and contrary to the public interest; therefore, the provisions of this Part 1211 are effective upon publication in the FEDERAL REGISTER.

You can read the entire regulation here, via Scribd.