April 16, 2019

9. Apollo 11 and the Space Suits: Kassia St Clair (1969)

Fifty years ago humankind stepped on the moon for the first time. This is the story of the space suit that allowed them to do it.

Millions of Britons stayed up through the night of 20/21 July 1969 to experience one of the most iconic moments of the twentieth century. They watched on their TV sets, part of a global audience of 528 million, as Neil Armstrong edged down a ladder from the lunar module to become the first human to set foot on the moon. It was a definitive moment in the history of humankind and, for those watching, it became a shared experience like few others.

This latest episode of Travels Through Time begins at the moment Armstrong’s foot presses down onto the powdery surface of the moon. Most people have a vivid image of the scene: the grey lunar surface, the total blackness of space, the white lights and the fluttering Stars and Stripes. But what about the space suits that enabled Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to survive in such a hostile environment?

In three scenes the writer and cultural historian Kassia St Clair takes us from that iconic moment back to the JFK Space Centre and a sewing room floor in Delaware to show how these space suits – quiet wonders of technology themselves – were made, often using traditional techniques.

Scene One: Sea of Tranquillity, Lunar Surface, 2.56am GMT July 21st 1969

Scene Two: John F. Kennedy Space Center, US, 3.30am local time, July 16th 1969

Scene Three: Sewing floor of Playtex (ILC) Dover, Delaware, early months of 1969

Kassia St Clair’s website: http://www.kassiastclair.com/


Presenter: Peter Moore (@petermoore)

Guest: Kassia St Clair (@kassiastclair)

Producer: Maria Nolan

Audio extracts from the NASA archive. Used under the terms of their media use guidelines for educational purposes.

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