DuPont-sponsored ‘Suited for Space’ Smithsonian

Twenty of the 21 layers of the Apollo moon suits either contained or were made entirely of science-based innovations developed by DuPont.

DuPont-sponsored ‘Suited for Space’ Smithsonian

Shepard's Space suit  XRay of Shepard's Space Suit 
Alan Shepard wore this A7-L extra-vehicular suit on the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. Soft and flexible, these suits could be removed after launch and stowed until it was time for the lunar walk.  Photo by Mark Avino, Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. An x-ray of Alan Shepard’s Apollo 14 spacesuit allows curators and conservators to "see" inside space clothing – a task that had previously been done by peering through the neck or the wrist with a flashlight.  X-ray by Roland H. Cunningham and Mark Avino.
DuPont is the national sponsor of “Suited for Space,” a new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.  The exhibition, which begins a five-year U.S. tour in 2011, tells the story of innovations, technical achievements and challenges in the development of protective garments that have allowed astronauts to live and work in space.

Twenty of the 21 layers of the Apollo moon suits either contained or were made entirely of science-based innovations developed by DuPont.

Over 500 million people in more than 40 countries on five continents watched as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon for the first time.  When Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin walked out into the moon’s sunlight, the day’s temperature could reach 253 F (123 C).  At night, outside the lunar module, the moon’s temperature dropped to minus 387 F (minus 233 C). 

“DuPont was the only company at the time with a broad portfolio of materials that could perform in these extreme conditions,” said Vlodek Gabara, DuPont Fellow, Protection Technologies. “The motivation to develop these materials was to protect lives here on earth.  As with applications on earth, we didn't just provide the materials, we provided the knowledge on how to use them.

"From the introduction of nylon to the development and commercialization of products like Nomex® and Kevlar®, ‘Suited for Space’ celebrates the thousands of scientists in industry, academia and government whose collaborative efforts led to the manufacture of the materials needed to develop and design our spacesuits,” Vlodek added.

The company continues to produce and innovate on some of the world’s best known product brands today, including:

  • DuPont™ Kevlar® fibers, used to provide strength and flexibility in spacesuits, are used in bullet-resistant body armor to protect law enforcement officers, first responders and the military.  DuPont also has introduced a new technology platform, Kevlar® XP™, which provides lighter weight protection for body armor and for hard armor in helmets and vehicles.
  • DuPont™ Nomex® fibers, used as strong protective layers in spacesuits, are used in garments to protect firefighters, soldiers and race car drivers.  Last year, DuPont introduced the first “smart” fiber that protects lives – Nomex® On Demand™ – which acts, when needed, to provide 20% more thermal protection.
  • DuPont™ Kapton® polyimide film, used in two layers of the Apollo suits because of its durability and thermal stability, is a critical material for high reliability in the electronics industry.
  • DuPont™ Krytox® performance lubricants, first used by NASA for the Apollo space flights, in the traction motors on the lunar rover and as a lubricant for spacesuits, work at both low- and high-temperature extremes to protect everything from computer chip manufacture to industrial and automotive applications to the latest civilian and military aircraft.
  • Mylar® polyester film, used in several layers of Apollo spacesuits because of its toughness and flexibility, is used in diverse applications for the electrical, electronics, industrial specialty, imaging and graphics, and packaging markets.

View a fact sheet about DuPont products in spacesuits.

Learn more about Suited for Space.

DuPont 1971 print ad of Apollo astronaut James Irwin on the moon. 
DuPont 1971 print ad of Apollo astronaut James Irwin on the moon.

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