ILC Dover Celebrates Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50th Anniversary - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

ILC Dover Celebrates Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50th Anniversary

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FREDRICA, Del.- When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, they were wearing space suits made at ILC Dover in Frederica, Del. Now the company celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, while still striving to keep its status as leader of the spacesuit industry.

One of the first steps taken to reach the moon started at ILC Dover in Fredrica. Bill Ayrey was the test lab manager for 41 years and now serves as the company’s historian. He says ILC Dover has been around since 1937 and that it started working on space suits in the 1950’s. 

“An engineer by the name of Len Sheperd decided he would pursue pressure suits because he was working on helmets at the time,” Ayrey says. “We did a K-1 helmet that was popular with the military.”

About 900 people worked on the suits for the Apollo program. 77 measurements were taken of each astronaut to tailor the perfect fit. Ayrey says that’s what determined the torso, leg, and arm sections.

“All of these parts were built separately and then sewn together to make one suit,” he says. 

The blue suits were made out of high-strength nylon to keep from stretching under pressure, but to still give the astronauts mobility.

"These were put together by crimping metal pieces to hold the waist together,” Ayrey explains. “It allowed the waist to flex, the legs to rotate." 

Of course astronauts use their hands a lot when they're out in space. That's why the glove is one of the most important parts of their spacesuit. The original Apollo glove was made out of latex rubber, but over the years ILC Dover has evolved to use urethane, dakron, and Teflon to reflect radiation and regulate temperature extremes. 

The suits used today on the international space station are a couple hundred pounds heavier. Ayrey says they could weigh up to 300 pounds on Earth. 

"This suit right here could weigh about 300 pounds here on Earth," he says. 

ILC Dover’s Houston division is working on a lighter weight, next generation suit.

"Hopefully those suits can be taken back to the moon or go to Mars, where they can be used in lighter gravity,” says Ayrey. 

As America remembers that one small step for man, Delmarva can take pride knowing those monumental steps were taken in boots designed right here at home. 

ILC Dover makes more than just space suits. The company makes pharmaceutical, packaging solutions, personal safety products, and more. Its also installing a flex-gate stairwell system in New York City to keep water from flooding into the subways.

To learn about more ILC Dover products, click here

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