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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Did You Know...

that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Colins (yes, the Apollo 11 crew members) had to declare to the U.S. Customs the rock and dust they’ve gathered from the Moon upon their return?

Here’s proof that what you just read (and the image above) is not a joke…

Giant leap for mankind wasn't enough to clear Customs
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor Monday, 19 February 2001

It was a small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind, but for United States Customs it was just another day at the office. Which is why when the triumphant crew of Apollo 11, led by Neil Armstrong, returned to Earth, one of the first questions they faced was: are you going through the red channel or the green channel?

Documents which have just come to light via the internet show that even if you've just traveled to the Moon and back - especially if you've just traveled to the Moon and back - the US Customs wants to know what you've got. Anyone who has visited the US will be familiar with the huge list of items which travellers are required to declare, such as plants, drugs and other preparations.

Historians at NASA, the US space administration, have confirmed that the document, signed by the three crew members, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins, is authentic. It lists their departure point as "Moon" and arrival as "Honolulu" on 24 July 1969.

But what, Customs wanted to know, was in those bags? "Moon rock and Moon dust samples," the crew responded. How many people had disembarked or joined the round trip from Cape Kennedy? Thankfully, the answer to both was "nil" - no lost souls and no extra aliens. And was anyone ill, or were there "any other conditions on board which may lead to the spread of disease" - which in this case would presumably be mysterious space viruses? "To be determined", the crew responded to the latter question, though the test of time suggests that nothing untoward happened.

It is unclear whether this practice became the pro forma for returning lunar astronauts from Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. "We have a lot of records here, but that would be something really for Customs," said Colin Fries, a NASA archivist. "It's hard to prove a negative."


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