NASA Is Set to Tear Down the 1969 Moon Landing Lab

NASA is set to tear down the lab where the Apollo 11 astronauts were quarantined on their return to Earth, following the historic moon landing in 1969.

The space agency says that the so-called Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, hasn't been used for two years and is in a state of disrepair.

The building will likely be demolished next year, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Completed in 1967, the LRL was constructed as a facility to quarantine astronauts and the material they brought back from the moon during the Apollo program to ensure that they were free from diseases.

After the end of the Apollo program in 1975—the LRL hosted research looking into the effects of spaceflight on the human body. However, a 2015 economic analysis concluded that the structure and electrical wiring of the building were in such bad condition that they could not be fixed.

The Chronicle reports that pieces of fiberglass and discarded office materials are strewn across the floor of the building, while exposed wires hang from the ceiling.

"I just hate to see what this building represents and what we did here 50 years ago go away," Judy Allton, a curator at Johnson Space Center, told the Chronicle.

One scientist, who worked in the lab during the final six Apollo missions, expressed his sadness at the future of the building, but acknowledged that the structure would be too expensive to preserve.

"Sometimes in life we have to make hard decisions, and I don't know what you could do with it," Everett Gibson said. "It's sitting out there rotting, and the cost to keep it going is just horrendous. I don't think it's that exciting to a man and a woman on the street."

Sandra Tetley, a historic preservation officer at Johnson, said she would try and salvage as many pieces of equipment as possible before the demolition, as well as the original stairs, pillars and walkways. These could be put on display in future.

NASA says the LRL will be replaced by an energy-efficient building, which will be designed by architecture firm HDR.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969, at around 8:17 p.m. UTC when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Lunar Module Eagle on the surface of our only natural satellite.

Around six hours later, Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the lunar surface—and he was joined by Aldrin shortly after.

During the landing, Michael Collins was in orbit above the moon piloting the Command Module Columbia. Once Armstrong and Aldrin had completed their time on the surface, the two astronauts re-docked with Columbia to begin their long journey back home to Earth.

Lunar Receiving Laboratory
The Lunar Receiving Lab shortly after it was built in 1967. NASA