Splashdown 45 - USS Hornet Museum Celebrates Apollo 11 Anniversary

Honoring the Past… Inspiring the Future…

This site is devoted to the public commemoration of the Apollo 11 moon mission --  the first time humans walked on the moon and their safe recovery by the aircraft carrier USS Hornet upon their return to Earth. Visit here for the latest updates and information about the special guests, schedule of events, exhibits and activities, ticket packages, and more.

John Hirasaki

NASA Engineer Apollo 11 John Hirasaki.jpg

"After the spacecraft was brought aboard Hornet, John personally retrieved the lunar sample containers that held the moon rocks... Back in the MQF, he chatted occasionally with the three astronauts and found them eager to discuss various aspects of the lunar landing flight."

John Hirasaki was born in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in a farming community environment. He graduated from the Lamar State College of Technology (now Lamar University) in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.

He joined NASA in 1966, and was soon assigned to the development testing and operational qualification of the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF). As such, he oversaw most of the design qualification testing for its operational functionality. NASA conducted its MQF sea trials in conjunction with the recovery of Apollo 9 mission aboard the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7), running a full end-to-end manned simulation of a lunar landing recovery mission in March 1969.

Four NASA engineers had volunteered to serve as the Recovery Engineer inside the MQF for the lunar landing missions and John was assigned to the Apollo 11 mission. Dr. Bill Carpentier and John were placed into isolation within the MQF on the USS Hornet about the same time as the launch of Apollo 11, eight days before the splashdown, to prevent them from catching a cold or introducing other germs into the biologically isolated environment.

After the spacecraft was brought aboard Hornet, John personally retrieved the lunar sample containers that held the moon rocks. Upon entering the Apollo 11 Command Module he noticed a unique scent that reminded him of the smell of exploded firecrackers. Back in the MQF, he chatted occasionally with the three astronauts and found them eager to discuss various aspects of the lunar landing flight. The period spent inside the MQF by the Apollo 11 crew allowed them to physically relax from the rigors of the flight and maintain some isolation from the media coverage and worldwide clamor.

John Hirasaki looks over the shoulders of Neil Armstrong (waving) and Buzz Aldrin from within the MQF

John Hirasaki looks over the shoulders of Neil Armstrong (waving) and Buzz Aldrin from within the MQF

For the Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 missions, John participated as a supporting Recovery Engineer outside of the MQF. The NASA requirement for quarantine procedures during the astronaut recovery process, including the MQF, was discontinued after the Apollo 14 mission because no evidence of lunar pathogens or contamination had been found.

He left NASA in 1973 to become a Honda motorcycle dealer. In 1981 he joined Eagle Engineering, Inc., an aerospace consulting firm, and reentered the aerospace business on a part-time basis. One of his first tasks was to help plan, implement and launch a commercial rocket funded by private venture capital into space. On September 9, 1982, they successfully launched the Conestoga rocket from Matagorda Island on the south coast of Texas.

In 1986, John returned to the aerospace industry on a full-time basis with Eagle Engineering, Inc. in support of the Space Station Freedom Program. He assisted in the development of an Assured Crew Return Vehicle design, crew and vehicle recovery procedures, and mission operations for the Space Station Freedom Program. When Russia joined the International Space Station (ISS) Program, and it was decided to use the Soyuz vehicle as the ISS Crew Return Vehicle, he became involved in the design modification and mission integration of the Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles with the ISS Program. When the European Space Agency prepared to integrate their newly developed Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) with the ISS Program, he assisted in the design, mission integration, and flight support of the first ATV with the ISS. After the successful flight of the second ATV to the ISS in 2011, John retired.

The USS Hornet Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and a registered State and National Historic Landmark. 
The Museum's official website is www.uss-hornet.org.
USS HORNET MUSEUM • 707 W. Hornet Ave, Pier 3 • Alameda, CA 94501 • (510) 521-8448