Bill Ayrey explains the importance of a well-developed spacesuit to an audience fascinated by the Space Age.
Ayrey begins with the materials needed for a durable and reliable spacesuit. The materials gathered were not originally made specifically for spacesuits but where used for other products. In 1947, the original "Latex" corporation branched out into other industries, which included the Playtex Corporation. This material is just one used in the making of a spacesuit.
"The Apollo suits were the only items that set foot on the moon (literally) and were returned to Earth. They never sustained a failure that impacted a mission or jeopardized the safety of the astronaut. I feel that it's necessary to provide the details of what made these suits so special. By today's standards they might be considered somewhat crude in respect to the materials used or the mobility they afforded, but when you peel the outside TMG (Thermal-Meteoroid Garment) off, I still marvel at the engineering thought that was put into these masterpieces at a time when no other options were available."
Experiments and tests had to be done in abundance for all parts of the suit, including the helmet, the gloves, and the boots. The women sewing and stitching many of the parts had to have special skills, for if any mistakes took place it could cost the astronaut their life. For the past 25 years or more, Ayrey has worked at the Test Lab at ILC Dover, a Delaware based company that has designed and manufactured spacesuits from the Apollo mission, shuttle program, and current Space Station missions.
"I was a teenager fascinated by the fact that here was this blurry figure of a man walking on the moon in a space suit built by a company in my own home-town of Dover, Delaware. I watched Neil and Buzz that July evening while visiting my brother in upstate New York where I was on a summer vacation," said Ayrey.
Also, Ayrey has a long standing relationship with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum where he has consulted on space suit design and preservation. "In addition to my job duties that include overseeing and performing all testing on the Space Shuttle suits, I also volunteer my time helping my good friend Amanda Young at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.”
"I'm so proud of the efforts she has put into the preservation of the Apollo lunar suits. When I first started helping her on the Saving America's Treasures project several years ago, the suits were not in the best of shape. Since then, she has put all of her blood, sweat and tears into this project and I believe we all owe her a hearty round of thanks for her efforts. I'm happy to say that the suits are now in a condition that should preserve them for decades to come," said Ayrey.