Speed Reads

outer space

The Apollo missions might have exposed our entire planet to 'lunar germs'

When NASA sent people to the moon for the first time, it took some precautions to make sure that nothing would hitch a ride back. But was it enough?

Footage from a new PBS documentary reveals that Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, two out of the three astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission that allowed humanity to walk on the moon for the first time, have their doubts about the sanitation methods NASA used to disinfect them once they were back on Earth.

NASA didn't really believe that any sort of "lunar germs" would infect the astronauts, Space reports; but if there were, they might still be out there. As Collins explained, even though he never set foot on the moon's surface, he would have been exposed to any germs as soon as Aldrin and Neil Armstrong returned to the module that would eventually take them home.

While the astronauts were held in quarantine for 21 days, they still might have contaminated the Pacific Ocean with their space germs. After disinfecting the astronauts on a raft with a cloth, rescue personnel dropped the rag into the ocean — which just "takes all those germs to the bottom of the ocean," Aldrin recounted. "I wonder if they'd survive down there?"

The probable answer is no — which is why NASA dropped its quarantine procedure after the Apollo 14 mission. But if there's something lurking out there, then it's already probably too late for us.

Read more at Space, or catch the documentary Chasing the Moon on PBS this week. It will air on July 8, 9, and 10, at 9 p.m. ET.