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Apollo 11: Playtex's feminine touch helped NASA land on the Moon



It took a feminine touch to make sure Neil Armstrong and his moonwalking cohorts could make their giant leap for mankind and get to the moon.

Specifically, it took the touch of a few seamstresses from Playtex who honed their detailed set of skills by manufacturing girdles for the women of America. The suits had to be flexible, resilient and able to withstand temperatures as high as 240 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as minus 280 degrees in shadow and at night.

NASA has decided in a competition of manufacturers that the suit designed and sewn by the Playtex team provided the astronauts with the flexibility and strength necessary to explore the moon's new frontier.

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And the expert craftswomen who helped produce the state of the art suit? Just weeks before they were sewing baby pants and girdles.

 In this July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar pilot module, walks on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. NASA, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar pilot modules, walks on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity.
      "They did not tell me a thing, they just brought me up here," said Anna Lee Minner in an interview with CBS News. <span class= (Neil Armstrong / NASA via AP)

"… I went home on many nights and cried because I knew I could not do it. I was scared. That was a person's life that depended on. "

Minner was one of four who helped put the suits together. The others were Joanne Thompson, Lillie Elliott and Ruth Anna Ratledge.

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The 21-layer suit had to be completely constructed by hand. Each seam and stitch was carefully measured to ensure utmost accuracy in hopes that their detailed efforts would help NASA avoid another disaster like the Apollo 1 infernal capsule that killed three astronauts.

"Lillie Elliott

" Oh my, I wonder if this is gonna be alright. I hope that stitch did not pop. "

Despite the immense pressure and mountainous stakes, women were lifted up by the frequent presence of the astronauts themselves.

"We would have astronauts come in and thank us, and that was a real boost," Thompson told CBS News. "

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Finally, on July 20, 1969, the efforts of the women would be tested in the low-gravity environment of the moon.

"Once they started down the ladder, and he put his foot on the moon, that was a pinnacle of watching something you helped to do," Elliott told CBS.

As exhilarating as they were seeing their products touch on a new frontier, the anxiety did not abate immediately for the women.

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"Oh my, I wonder if that's gonna hold? Oh, we wonder if this is gonna be fine. I hope that the stitch did not pop, "" Elliot said about her worries when watching the lunar landing.

The partnership between NASA and the former undergarment maker remains intact. The same division in Playtex that made the original suits has been spun off into an independent company, ILC Dover, which still manufactures NASA socks to this day.

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