UC MagazineUniversity of CincinnatiUC Magazine

UC Magazine

Anything to declare?

Trip to moon required Apollo 11 crew to sign U.S. Customs declaration to enter the country

by Barbara Blum

If you have ever traveled overseas, then returned to the U.S., you likely filled out a “customs declaration” form on the airplane:

“Are you bringing with you: plants, food, animals, soil, disease agents, cell cultures or snails? Declare all articles that you have acquired and are bringing into the United States.”

Who would have guessed the regulations would have been enforced so rigorously in 1969 when three men returned to the U.S. from a rather long business trip – to the moon and back. After more than 477,000 miles roundtrip, they had to file and sign a “General Declaration” for the items they acquired on the trip — specifically, “moon rock and moon dust samples.”

The flight number was typed in as “Apollo 11,” and the departure point was listed as “Moon” with arrival at Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

The Declaration of Health section, asks travelers to list: "Any other condition on board which may lead to the spread of disease.” The answer was “To be determined.”

(First-man-on-the-moon and former UC engineering professor Neil Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at 82 years of age.)

Editor notes:

Yes, the form really does ask if a person is bringing in snails.

Thanks to UC alumnus Luama Mays, JD ’66, for sharing a copy of the declaration with UC Magazine. Mays was a pilot who befriended Armstrong while the former astronaut was teaching at UC and Mays was running an aviation company. Initially Armstrong called him, without even identifying himself, asking for a ride on Mays old "bubble-style" helicopter left over from the Korean War. It was exactly what Armstrong had trained on in preparation for operating the lunar module. (See entire story.)