The Smithsonian Magazine casually reports Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit was Made by a Bra Manufacturer. Wait, what?
While most of the suit’s materials existed long before the Moon program, one was invented specifically for the job. After a spacecraft fire killed three Apollo astronauts during a ground test in 1967, NASA dictated the suits had to withstand temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The solution was a state-of-the-art fabric called Beta cloth, made of Teflon-coated glass microfibers, used for the suit’s outermost layer.
It was International Latex Corporation NASA called upon. You probably know them today as Playtex.
The Model A7L you see above cost about $670,000 in today’s money. Even back then, $100,000 was a lot of walking around money. What made the bra manufacturer’s materials particularly valuable, was that they were pliable. The astronauts needed flexibility as well as something that could handle 3.75lbs per square inch of pure oxygen. They also needed a material that could stand the ~115° Celsius heat in the sun and the -173° Celsius cold in the shade.
The material ended up in the joints where the flexibility was required.