Documents uncovered by curators at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry reveal a textile firm in Newton Heath called P Frankenstein and Sons helped design the spacesuits worn by Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts when Apollo 11 touched down on July 20, 1969.
The 1968 cult film 2001: A Space Odyssey featured the iconic yellow space suits made by the firm at their factory in Newton Heath.
P Frankenstein and Sons Ltd, which later became the Frankenstein Group, was founded in 1854 at the Victoria Rubber Works in Newton Heath.
It specialised in rubberised fabrics and from the 1940s, produced flying and survival equipment for airmen.
Susie Elliott, from the museum, said: “Frankenstein and Sons is really important for the history of Manchester’s textiles industry, as it was at the forefront of producing some of the first garments made from innovative new fabrics. “Frankenstein was one of two Manchester companies that contributed to the design of the Apollo spacesuit that allowed Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon and produced the spacesuits for Kubrick.”
The information was revealed in documents drawn up by Frederick Ordway, a scientific adviser for 2001: A Space Odyssey, who wrote about costume and set design for the film.
The company produced a prototype flying suit circulating liquid through pipes incorporated within clothing which was used by NASA in trials to develop the Apollo spacesuit. Alan Kirby, 69, an ex-RAF safety technician, worked in the development department at the factory in the 1950s and 1960s. He said: “I started at Frankenstein’s in 1959 and stayed until about 1962. We used to make all sorts of things – safety suits for pilots ditching in the sea, heat-resistant clothing for firefighters and pressurised suits for pilots flying at high altitudes, like in the V-bombers “They were designed to protect the pilots if the cabin pressure went and they were pressurised and very warm “They were practically spacesuits and that is why the Americans came to us. We were one of the most technologically advanced companies in that field at the time and we were working on a lot of experimental safety equipment and other things. “I heard about the Americans coming over to talk about the mocked-up spacesuits for the film, but I had left by then. I also know the company played a part in working on the space suits used in the 1969 moon landings.
“They were a big employer in the area in their day, but they eventually merged with another business in the 1970s.”
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