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Delaware author pens book about ILC Dover, creation of space suit

Delaware News Desk
Author Bill Ayrey, retired ILC Dover employee, wrote a book detailing the history of the Frederica-based company and its involvement in designing and creating the Apollo space suit.

Lewes author Bill Ayrey recently announced the release his new book “Lunar Outfitters, Making the Apollo Space Suit,” which tells the story of the Frederica-based company ILC Dover during the 1960’s and early 70’s when it was the prime contractor chosen by NASA to design and fabricate the Apollo space suit.

Published by the University Press of Florida, the book details how ILC Industries, as it was named during the Apollo years, was an underdog in the contest to win the contract to build the iconic space suits worn by all the astronauts that walked on the moon. At a time of great technological strides due to the nation’s quest to land a man on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade, ILC Industries was making their suits while relying on Singer industrial sewing machines operated by women who were the best in their trade. The ILC engineers faced constant challenges in the design of the suits and were often making changes weeks before the critical launch dates of the Apollo missions. This book provides stories and suit details.

Ayrey retired from ILC Dover in 2019 after 41 years of service. He managed the test facilities that still test the space suits for support aboard the International Space Station, and he represented ILC as their historian. 

Publishers Weekly reviewed the book, saying, “Ayrey’s details fascinate: made from 15 layers of materials, each suit was custom fitted to its wearer, right down to gloves made from molds of the specific astronaut’s hands. Suit testing included an x-ray to be sure no pins had been left behind while the suits were being sewn—a critical suit check still done today. Black and white photos and engineering design diagrams add helpful visual detail to the text.”

In Apollo 11 Astronaut Mike Collins’ review, he said, “A space suit: a miniature spacecraft, so well designed for Apollo missions as described in this book. Excellent throughout, so comprehensive, so enjoyable.”

Apollo 15 Astronaut Dave Scott talked about his personal connection to the story. “This is the story of the ultimate space suit for lunar explorers; a garment that evolved over many years of experiment and development; a garment that protected me five times during extravehicular excursions into the vast unforgiving hazards of space exploration, including three days on the surface of the moon,” Scott said.

The book is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.