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First Contact: Apollo 11 Astronauts as Field Workers and Test Subjects

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Article

“First Contact: Apollo 11 Astronauts as Field Workers and Test Subjects” by Caitlin Fendley
Published in Quest Volume: 29 #2 (2022)
Honorable Mention: 2021 Sacknoff Prize for Space History

Abstract

American popular culture and memory has typically portrayed the Apollo 11 astronauts as masculine, courageous, and patriotic heroes. This was partly based on a carefully crafted persona by NASA and the media. Recent scholarship is challenging the notion of Apollo 11 as a cherished and unifying event among the American public. But historians have yet to fully examine the role of these astronauts through scientific and medical lenses. This perspective casts iconic astronauts in a new light, showing how they embodied the characteristics of three scientific personas: explorers, field workers, and test subjects. While the Apollo 11 astronauts were the first human beings on the Moon, it was the unique risks that they endured that distinguished them from previous astronauts and created a precedent for a new type of astronaut after them. While vested in the pursuit of science and exploration, they straddled two personas: Cold War hero and vulnerable medical test subject. The risks they endured included the stresses of spaceflight, but also the hazard of potential lunar microbes resulting in their post-splashdown quarantine required to deem their bodies pathogen-free.


Citation

Fendley, Caitlin. “First Contact: Apollo 11 Astronauts as Field Workers and Test Subjects.” Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly 29, no. 2 (2022): 23-38.

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More Information

  • Archive ID # G301256
  • Format: Document (PDF)
  • Author/Creator:
  • Publication Year: 2022
  • Publisher: Quest
  • Copyright Status: Copyrighted
  • Copyright Holder: SPACE 3.0
  • Language: English
  • Number of Pages: 16
  • Type: History
  • Subject:
  • Collection: Quest
  • Availability: Digital Download

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