I remember reading a Wikipedia article that in the initial years of space exploration NASA had a standing crew of bulldozers to bury any landing site or research facility exploring material from another planet, killing everyone from flight crew through scientists to the cleaning lady. They were scared "space flu" could exterminate the whole of humanity.

Anyone have a name of the program or a link? Or was it some bogus article - after all I can't find it now and Wikipedia is a community effort?

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    $\begingroup$ NASA are doing a fine job of preventing contamination from Lunar mission by completely failing to send anyone to the moon for 50+ years. $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


"Apollo Lunar Quarantine"

Although it was indeed considered to be a remote possibility that lunar material was harmful to Earth life, a list of potential dangers was drawn up. The lunar rocks themselves could be dangerous, composed of toxic metals or chemical compounds with unknown effects on the biological systems and the physiological machinery of Earth's organisms. Although such toxicities would certainly be contained with relatively simple procedures, they would pose a risk to anyone coming into contact with the material. This was not including the indeed minuscule, but not infinitely impossible chance that life forms could survive on the Moon. It was still a possibility that these most likely microscopic life forms could either be directly harmful, or become the ultimate invasive species by thriving all too well in Earth's biosphere, replacing the native plant and animal life.


For the "burial" scenario, see this Q&A

"And it went through our minds that, well, you might, in fact, have to sacrifice everybody in the laboratory and bulldoze it under 100 feet of dirt. "

Was emergency burial of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory planned?

Incidentally, the Lunar Receiving Laboratory building at JSC will soon be demolished.


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    $\begingroup$ Fascinating, although it doesn't sound well thought out. Its not clear that burial under 100 feet of dirt would be a very effective against micro organisms. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Slarty there were a lot of issues with what they did, like opening the Command Module hatch to the atmosphere after splashdown. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ There is an interesting story from one of the lunar astronauts, that they had to speed 2 weeks or so after the trip in special sealed bunkers isolated from the world and under observation. About a week in, he noticed ants in the bunker. So much for the "careful isolation". $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ Serendipitously, when Aldrin and Armstrong opened their helmets after the first excursion, the cabin seemed filled up with the smell of gun smoke and fireplace ashes, which was caused by the dust they'd collected on their suits floating into their nasal passages. They were not only the first humans to walk on the Moon's surface; they were also the first ones to smell it. $\endgroup$
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 0:06

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