On This Day: Moon astronauts get tickertape parade after three weeks in quarantine

Julian Gavaghan

AUGUST 13, 1969: The first men to walk on the Moon were finally given a hero’s welcome on this day in 1969 - following three weeks in quarantine after returning to Earth.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins received a ticker-tape parade in New York, which is shown in British Pathé footage.

They were also greeted by cheering millions in similar open-top car processions in Chicago and Los Angeles on that same day.

That evening, they were the guests of honour at an official State Dinner to celebrate a feat that effectively won America the Space Race against the Soviet Union.

President Richard Nixon, members of Congress, 44 state governors and ambassadors from 83 nations attended the gala at the Century Plaza Hotel in LA.

Each astronaut was handed a Presidential Medal of Freedom before beginning a 45-day ‘Giant Leap’ tour of 25 nations, including Britain, where they met the Queen.

Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins had all been strictly quarantined after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean upon their returning to Earth on July 24, 1969.

Nasa took the precaution despite there being only a remote chance that they would bring back pathogens from the lunar surface.

Naval divers provided them with isolation suits, which they wore before being washed with chemicals and transferred to a special pod on the USS Hornet.

Nixon, who was on the ship, greeted the astronauts through a window and told them: ‘As a result of what you've done, the world has never been closer together before.’

But back in the USSR, where news of the July 20 was heralded only by a sombre radio announcement 14 hours later, few wished to share in the Americans’ joy.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins landed on the moon (Getty)


[On This Day: Moon landings]


It meant that the Soviet Union - the communist state that had notched up most of the cosmic firsts, including the first man in orbit – had effectively lost the Space Race.

The fulfilment of President John F Kennedy’s 1960 promise to put men on the moon by the end of the decade confirmed their Cold War enemy’s technological superiority.

The Soviets had triggered this race by sending the first satellite, Sputnik, and living creature, mongrel dog Laika, into space in 1957.

The then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower feared that these rockets could become weapons and ordered more of his nation’s cash to be devoted to astronautics.

But, despite the capitalist country having superior economic resources at its disposal, the Americans would long be hampered by setbacks.

Following three crashes, it took until the end of January 1958 for the U.S. to get a satellite in space.

By December of that year, the Americans had sent a living creature into space and in May 1959 monkeys Able and Baker became the first animals to survive the trip.

Naval divers provided the astronauts with isolation suits(Getty)


[On This Day: USSR lands on Venus and nearly wins space race]


But their achievements were eclipsed on April 12, 1961 when the Soviet Union put the first man, ex-steelworker Yuri Gagarin, into space.

Just weeks later, Alan Shepherd became the first American to be sent into the orbit.

The communists countered by putting the first woman, former factory worker Valentina Treskhkova, into space on June 16, 1963.

They also ensured that unlike the wealthy elites America sent into the stratosphere, those representing the Soviet Union had solid working class credentials.

The USSR scored the first space walk when Alexei Leonov, who again had a humble upbringing, spent 12 minutes floating outside his craft on March 18, 1965.

And they also landed an unmanned rocket on Venus on May 17, 1969.

Armstrong (pictured), Aldrin and Collins were quarantined after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean (PA)


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But it was the race to put a man on the Moon that really counted – and the Americans got there first.

However, few people at the time realised just how close the USSR came to dashing JFK’s dream.

The secretive Soviets kept under wraps the fact that, 17 days earlier, its own N1 moon rocket exploded seconds after lift-off, causing the biggest non-nuclear blast in history.

Details of explosion, which was powerful enough to level a town the size of Luton, were only revealed after the fall of communism in the 1990s.

The lid was also lifted on how the brave Bolsheviks kept on trying – and failing – with ten launches between 1969 and 1974, when its moon programme was axed.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins received a ticker-tape parade in New York (Getty)


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Nasa successfully landed six manned shuttles on the moon between 1969 and 1972 when the U.S. government ended its expensive programme.