After their unceremonious post-splashdown scuttle from Helicopter 66 to their new temporary home in the Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the U.
After their unceremonious post-splashdown scuttle from Helicopter 66 to their new temporary home in the Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the U.S.S. Hormet, the three Apollo 11 astronauts took of their anti-infection suits, and chatted and joked with the other Very Important American, President Nixon.
The President watched the splashdown from the bridge of the Hornet, a U.S. aircraft carrier specially modified to act as the Apollo recovery vessel. he seemed overjoyed and deeply moved but his mood relaxed as he joked with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins through the windows of the Quarantine Facility. He invited them, when their period of clinical isolation was over, to join their wives in a dinner date with him in Los Angeles, attended by state governors and foreign ambassadors
He was, he said, 'the luckiest man in the world', because I hate the privilege of speaking for so many in welcoming you back to earth'.
The president asked the three if the hardest part of their trip had been the boat after leaving the capsule. Had they been seasick? Neil Armstrong assured him that they hadn't.
There were jokes about baseball. When the President asked about team support, Armstrong answered: 'Combination league, man, non-partisan, sir.'
'There's the politician in the group', Mr. Nixon countered.
Frank Borman, the Apollo 10 commander, got into the act, joking about space journey making the astronauts younger, and commenting on Mike Collins' poetic talents: 'In three minutes up there he used four fantastics and two beautifuls'.
But in spite of jokes and laughter, no-one, least of all President Nixon, forgot the sheer enormity of achievement of the three men behind the glass. Some of his closing words perhaps sum up the feelings of the millions who had the flight day after day.
'I was thinking as you came down and we knew it was a success, this is the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation.
Because as a result of what happened in this week, the world is bigger infinitely.......as a result of what you've done, the world's never been closer together before.'
On Friday, President Nixon rested in Guam before beginning his world tour and the astronauts continued their journey back to more comfortable quarantine quarters at the Houston Texas Space Centre-in 'Good shape', according to space doctors.