ALAMEDA -- When the USS Hornet picked up astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins from the Pacific Ocean following the first lunar landing in July 1969, the crew welcomed them aboard with buttons that read "Hornet Plus Three."
Now one of those three, the 84-year-old Aldrin, will return to the aircraft carrier to celebrate the 45th anniversary of what Armstrong famously described as "one giant leap for mankind."
"Splashdown 45" will take place all day July 26 and will feature a talk by Aldrin, one of just 12 men to have walked on the moon and a tireless advocate for manned missions to Mars and continued space exploration.
The day's activities aboard the ship, which is now a museum, will also include a cocktail reception and dinner where guests can meet the Apollo astronaut.
"We are pleased to announce that the USS Hornet Museum is once again bringing a world- famous 'moon walker' to the San Francisco Bay Area," said Bob Fish, a museum trustee and author of
"Hornet Plus Three: The Story of the Apollo 11 Recovery. "Our Splashdown events have become nationally recognized for our special guests, experts panels and onboard activities. The USS Hornet Museum hosted more than 3,500 guests for the 40th Apollo 11 and we anticipate capacity crowds again this year."
Among those who will be greeting Aldrin will be students Grace Teuscher and Khushi Randez from Alameda's Franklin Elementary School. They won the museum's essay contest, "Why I want to be an astronaut when I grow up," which was open to all fifth graders in Alameda public schools.
Along with recovering the Apollo 11 crew, the Hornet picked up the astronauts of Apollo 12, the second moon landing.
President Richard Nixon was aboard the ship when Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins arrived wearing masks and jumpsuits because scientists feared they might have picked up "moon germs," which could threaten public health.
The astronauts were checked out in a "Mobile Quarantine Facility," a converted Airstream trailer in the ship's hangar bay, where Nixon talked with them through a window as just about everyone across the world with a television watched.
Armstrong, the first man to walk on the lunar surface, died Aug. 25, 2012. Collins, who remained in the spacecraft and orbited the moon during the mission, is now age 83.
The Hornet's exhibits include the quarantine trailer used by the Apollo 14 astronauts and the Sikorsky Sea King helicopter used to recover the Gemini 4 crew in June 1965, when Astronaut Ed White carried out the first space walk by an American. Director Ron Howard used the helicopter in his film Apollo 13.
"All visitors are welcome to join the USS Hornet Museum in commemorating one of the greatest technological achievements in human history," said Randall Ramian, the museum's chief executive officer. "As we remember those significant events of the past, we will also look to the future of the U.S. space program."
The museum especially wants to use "Splashdown 45" as a way to support "STEM" education, a national program that encouages young people to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Ramian said.
The Hornet has been a museum at the former Alameda Naval ir Station since October 1998. Along with its role in the Apollo 11 and 12 missions, the aircraft carrier saw action during World War II and the Vietnam War.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.
"Splashdown 45" will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 26 followed by an evening reception from 6 to 10:30 p.m. aboard the USS Hornet, 707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3 in Alameda. For information, visit www.uss-hornet.org or call 510-521-8448.