With the Apollo lunar missions, one of the most iconic spacesuits ever designed was born: the Apollo A7L spacesuit. It’s widely unknown, however, that this spacesuit was actually introduced by a fashion company called the International Latex Corporation (ILC). They had been approached by NASA to design the suit alongside aerospace company Hamilton Standard but the latter, growing suspicious of ILC’s competence, designed their own suit called Tiger, which was submitted to NASA for the Apollo missions. It was a flop, Hamilton Standard blamed ILC, and the fashion company lost their contract with NASA in 1962.
Several years later NASA ran a competition for a new suit and a dozen ILC employees broke back into their old offices to steal back their original designs that had been overlooked by Hamilton Standard. Working around the clock they finished the new suit and submitted it to NASA. It was a hit, NASA picked it, and the A7L was born. Hamilton Standard would go on to provide the oxygen tank for the suit.
Since then, ILC has constantly been involved in American space exploration. As well as making the modern Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) suit used for spacewalks on the ISS, they also designed NASA’s next generation Z-1 suit and even the airbags for NASA’s Mars rovers Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity that allowed them to land on the surface of the Red Planet.
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Image courtesy of NASA