In the early morning hours of July 24, 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes, and 18 seconds after leaving Kennedy Space Center, Columbia plopped down into the Pacific Ocean about 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) south of Johnston Island. Recovery crews from the U.S.S. Hornet arrived quickly and tossed the biological isolation garments into the spacecraft. After the cocooned astronauts emerged from the spacecraft the swimmers swabbed the hatch down with Betadine (an organic iodine solution); then astronauts and recovery personnel decontaminated each other's protective garments with sodium hypochlorite solution. The biological isolation garments were not uncomfortable in the recovery raft, but aboard the helicopter they began accumulating heat. Both Collins and Armstrong felt that they were approaching the limit of their tolerance by the time they reached the ship. An hour after splashdown they were inside the mobile quarantine facility. As soon as they had changed into clean flight suits, the astronauts went to the large window at the rear end of the mobile quarantine facility to accept the nation's congratulations from President Nixon, who had flown out to the Hornet to meet them.
Meanwhile, recovery crews brought Columbia on board and connected it to the astronauts' temporary home by means of a plastic tunnel. Through this, the film magazines and sample return containers were taken into the quarantine trailer, then passed out through a decontamination lock. Sample return container no. 2, holding the documented sample, was packed in a shipping container along with film magazines and tape recorders and flown to Johnston Island, where it was immediately loaded aboard a C-141 aircraft and dispatched to Ellington Air Force Base near MSC. Six and a half hours later the other sample return container was flown to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and thence to Houston.