Documentary Short Review: ‘Apollo 11: Quarantine’

Greetings again from the darkness. We’ve seen the video and heard the audio of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step”, but do you know what happened when the crew of Apollo 11 returned to Earth after the moonwalk? Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Armstrong spent 21 days in quarantine, and that’s what Todd Douglas Miller documents in his 23 minute short film.

It’s the summer of 1969 and Miller’s film picks up with footage after the capsule has splashed down in the ocean. A hovering helicopter is dropping swimmers as part of the recovery. A raft and “Biological Isolation” garments are delivered, and the astronauts are hoisted one-by-one up into the helicopter and then flown to the Aircraft Carrier Hornet, where they are locked into the Mobile Quarantine facility.

A countdown to 21 days is used for structure, but mostly we see actual footage of the crew being taken first to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, then to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, and finally to a NASA facility where Armstrong will be treated to birthday cake while in quarantine. No narrator is utilized, only official footage – including moon rocks and dust, as well as Aldrin addressing Congress a month or so after quarantine. As the film concludes with breathtaking photos of Earth from the moon, we are still asking how giant was this leap?

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