I was a huge Apollo 11 fan and American history buff long before the advent of cable TV and the History Channel. Looking back I would have loved to been a historian. When I was deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t see this as a highly lucrative career path for me. So naturally I picked the next best thing…going to school to become an artist, lolol.
Despite that minor lapse in judgement, I still thoroughly enjoy being up to my eyeballs in archives that involve anything riveted or revving. So I often find myself selecting projects, whether in the studio or the garage, that connect me to the past.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the moon landing I’m not sure if it’s ironic or serendipitous that I now find myself refurbishing two space capsules of my own from the 1960s. But talk about a perfect reason to share with you the connection of one iconic American brand with an iconic moment in the history of our country.
Apollo 11 Moonshot
The 60s were just a slightly landmark decade in terms of, well, everything in the United States. And over the next year I’ll be peppering my posts with tidbits about the events and trends in music and design that contributed to the “cultural decade.” But for now, my focus is America’s moonshot.
While I was born almost ten years after America first landed men on the moon, you would have thought Apollo 11 had landed the day before in my house. My dad loved John F. Kennedy and the United States space program. My first science fair we created the surface of the moon, complete with “Benny,” the original Lego astronaut, and his moon rover. I won first place and still have my blue ribbon, lol. The (space) force was strong in my family. It still is. But in any event, I digress.
(Photographs Courtesy of NASA & United States Navy. All Rights Reserved.)
As NASA prepared to launch land Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on the moon, there was fear they would bring back (and transmit) moon funk here on earth. So they did what any group of world-class engineers would. NASA called Airstream and ordered up a “mobile quarantine facility” or MQF. This highly modified 35’ Airstream would be one of four created for the Apollo program. It provided “self-contained accommodations and biological isolation for six people for up to 10 days.”
After many modifications and dry-runs of the four Airstreams, including a full testing by the Apollo 9 crew aboard the USS Guadacanal, version number three, MQF-003, was assigned to the Apollo 11 crew.
“The sealed aluminum body shell made it airtight and the ventilation system provided negative pressure for biological isolation. A decontamination airlock allowed for the transfer of samples and film to the outside for rapid return to Houston ahead of the MQF and crew. Containing a lounge, galley, sleeping quarters and bathroom, the facility was powered internally by a diesel generator and batteries and could interface with ship and aircraft power systems. A then-novel appliance for meal preparation was a microwave oven.”
Apollo 11 Back on Earth
So talk about a crazy ride. Our astronauts had just returned from being launched into outer space to land on the moon. After being propelled back through the Earth’s atmosphere and into the Pacific Ocean, they were quarantined in an Airstream en route to Texas. Can you imagine being onboard an Airstream, onboard an aircraft carrier (the USS Hornet) only to be loaded onto a C-141?
In the 1970’s NASA transferred MQF-001 to the US Department of Agriculture for field work. But it’s since disappeared and its current whereabouts still remain unknown. However, you can find Apollo 12’s MQF-002 at the US Space and Rocket Park outside Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Apollo 11’s MQF-003 is located at the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. And Apollo 14’s MQF-004 can be found onboard the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum in Alameda, California.
If you do have information about the whereabouts of the MQF-004 though, give NASA a call. They’ve been waiting to hear from you;) LOL.
Can’t Get Enough?
If you’re like me, and need your space, check out the following links I’ve compiled just for you:)
- National Geographic 50 Years After Apollo Website
- National Air & Space Museum
- Detailed History of the MWF-LDR Program
- NASA – 50 Years Ago, Testing the MQF’s
- NASA – 50 Years Ago, the MQF Arrives in Houston
- Astronauts & Their Love Affair with Bacon
- Inventions Born of the Apollo Program
Enjoy these great books that I’ve hand-selected and that I guarantee will take you and your child’s interest in the Apollo Missions to new heights!