Even the Apollo 11 moon landing team had to pass through US customs

4 Aug 2015

Astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin walks on the moon. Photo courtesy of the NASA Project Apollo Archive

The Apollo 11 crew are among a minuscule subset of humans who have travelled to the moon and back, but even unique, once-in-a-lifetime trips like this have to suffer the bureaucracy of border control.

For starters, the Apollo 11 mission was, for NASA employees Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, essentially, a business trip. And, like any business trip, these astronauts were entitled to be reimbursed for any expenses they incurred along the way.

Because of these administrative mundanities, we have what astronaut Buzz Aldrin revealed to be his manager Christina Korp’s favourite piece of his memorabilia collection: a travel expense form for a trip to the moon.

Future Human

Colonel Edwin E Aldrin, known better as Buzz, tweeted images of Standard Form 1012-A, his Travel Voucher Memorandum for travel dates from 7 to 27 July 1969, as a Throwback Thursday treat on 30 July.

Apollo 11 travel expense form

Buzz Aldrin ’s Apollo 11 travel expense form. Photo via @TheRealBuzz/Twitter

Of course, the company was already covering much of the trip to ‘Moon’ and back via Cape Kennedy (now known as Cape Canaveral) and the ambiguous location of ‘Pacific Ocean’ on the return journey, but there was a short car journey from Aldrin’s home in Houston to the Ellington Air Force Base for which the mileage had to be covered.

Apollo 11 expense form

More details from Buzz Aldrin ’s moon landing travel expense form. Photo via @TheRealBuzz/Twitter

The 85-year-old astronaut later followed up the travel expense form with a tweeted image of the customs forms the Apollo 11 crew had to sign in order to bring their samples of moon rocks and dust into the US.

This general declaration for US Customs and Border Patrol dated 24 July 1969 lists the passengers’ flight number as ‘Apollo 11’, ‘Departure from: Moon. Arrival at: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA’.

The customs document is signed by all three astronauts who returned from the Apollo 11 mission, and declares their imported cargo of ‘moon rock and moon dust samples’.

Apollo 11's US Customs form

Apollo 11 ’s US Customs form. Photo via @TheRealBuzz/Twitter

Rather ominously, the question of conditions on board the ‘flight’ that may lead to the spread of disease is answered as ‘to be determined’. No one had ever travelled to the moon and back before, and there was no telling at this time if any heretofore unknown ‘moon diseases’ had returned with the crew.

In a collection of rarely seen Apollo 11 mission images, you can see the astronauts celebrating their return from behind the glass of a quarantine chamber. I’m sure US Customs were satisfied that every precaution was taken.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic