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Apollo 12 Astronauts Return Home (1969)


Sound | 1969

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  •  The Mobile Quarantine Facility. Following their recovery by the USS Hornet, the Apollo 12 astronauts immediately transferred to the MQF. The trailer was then flown to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.  
  •  The astronauts’ families 
  •  The MQF arrives at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center 
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This news footage for Houston’s KPRC-TV captures the arrival of Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean in Houston. The flight crew are kept inside a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF). The converted Airstream trailer was designed to isolate the astronauts for several days until scientists could determine if they carried unknown “moon germs.” NASA scientists eventually proved that the Moon was void of life, and the agency eliminated the quarantine requirement after Apollo 14. Launched on November 14, 1969, Apollo 12 was the second space mission to land on the Moon. Conrad and Gordon spent more than 31 hours on the lunar surface, exiting the Lunar Module on two occasions. After rejoining Bean in the Command Module, the three-man flight crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on November 24. NASA later sold the MQF used for Apollo 12 as surplus. Officials with the US Space and Rocket Center found the trailer at an aquatic research farm near Marion, Alabama, in 2007. It is now on display at the museum.
As the scope of the American space program grew, NASA’s Space Task Group realized it would need to expand into its own facility if it were to successfully land a man on the Moon. In 1961, the agency’s selection team chose a 1,000-acre cow pasture in Houston, Texas, as the proposed center’s location site, owing to its access to water transport and commercial jet service, moderate climate, and proximity to Rice University. In September 1963, the facility opened as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). 
The Center became the focal point of NASA’s manned spaceflight program, developing spacecraft for Projects Gemini and Apollo, selecting and training astronauts, and operating the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Beginning with Gemini 4 in June 1965, MSC’s Mission Control Center also took over flight control duties from the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As a result, the facility managed all subsequent manned space missions, including those related to Projects Gemini and Apollo, the Apollo Applications Program, the Space Shuttle Orbiters, and the International Space Station.
In 1973, the MSC was renamed in honor of the late President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson. (As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sponsored the 1958 legislation that established NASA.) The Center continues to lead NASA’s efforts in space exploration, training both American and international astronauts, managing missions to and from the International Space Station, and operating scientific and medical research programs.