July 25 – Apollo 11 Splashdown (1969)

On July 21st, 1969, the Eagle ascent stage, which had brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin back from the lunar surface to join Michael Collins in the Columbia command module, was jettisoned (it is thought to be on the surface somewhere) and the journey home began.

Apollo 11 Returns to Earth (image: NASA)

The task of picking up the crew fell to the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, which had been sailing to the splashdown site since July 12 (before Apollo 11 had even launched). At a quarter to six in the morning, Columbia landed, upside down I believe, about 13 miles from the Hornet. Flotation bags were used to bring her the right way up and aid stability, and the astronauts were winched into a helicopter.

The crew of Apollo 11 (image: NASA)

Unfortunately, it was then straight to quarantine. In total, the astronauts spent three weeks isolated from direct contact with other humans (except the mission doctor, who was allowed in, but then had to stay with them).