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Apollo 11 Moon Mission Could Have Infected Earth With Moon Germs

A "huge flaw" in NASA's procedures could have seen deadly moon germs brought home by Apollo 11 astronauts, an upcoming documentary reveals.

Had there been some sort of space bug on the lunar surface -- which, it's worth noting, there wasn't -- it could have come back with them.

Fifty years ago, the command module carrying Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, bringing back to Earth the first humans to set foot on our moon.

As part of NASA's plan to contain any germs which may have hitched a ride back with them, the Apollo 11 crew were put in isolation garments, scrubbed down and taken to a quarantine facility where they were kept for 21 days.

A gelatinous alien life form had attempted to engulf humanity in sci-fi classic The Blob just a decade prior -- no one was taking any chances.

Left to right, are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Image: Getty

But according to interviews with crew members in new PBS documentary Chasing The Moon -- shared by Space.com -- there was at least one problem with the plan.

Collins pointed out that there was a rather obvious moment where any bug on board could have been released into the atmosphere.

"Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs," he said.

"The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!"

Rescue swimmer closes the hatch of Apollo 11 as the astronauts wait in life raft for a helicopter to lift them to the U.S.S. Hornet after successful splashdown July 24th, 1969. Image: Getty

Aldrin made a similar point, recalling how rescuers had cleaned him down with a rag and then threw the same rag into the ocean with a weight attached.

"You have to laugh a little bit," he said.

"It takes all those germs to the bottom of the ocean. I wonder if they'd survive down there?"

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The Apollo 11 crew touched down on the moon on April 20, 1969 -- 50 years ago this month.

The astronauts acknowledge there were "rooms full of scientists" who at no point thought there was actually going to be germs on the moon, but with NASA not willing to take the chance of unleashing an alien disease on the world, strict precautions were put in place.

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, stands near a scientific experiment on the lunar surface. Image: Getty

Crews on the Apollo 12 and 14 underwent the same quarantine procedures, before NASA made the decision to drop the requirement for isolation.

Chasing The Moon is a three-part series set to explore the 1969 moon landing ahead of its 50th anniversary later this month.