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Science & Technology
A spacesuit Odyssey
Surely the two most famous spacesuits ever made: one worn by astronauts in the Apollo 11 moon landing. The other, by actors in the sci-fi epic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ But did you know that a Manchester company had a hand in the making of both?
Manchester style on the moon [pic: NASA]
Records have emerged showing that the P Frankenstein & Sons Ltd made the iconic yellow space suits for the cult 1968 film '2001: A Space Odyssey' at their Victoria Rubber Works factory in Newton Heath.
Furthermore, the company's expertise in working with rubberised fabrics also contributed to the design of the spacesuits worn by Neil Armstrong & co. for the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.
But how did a textile company in Newton Heath get involved in making spacesuits for NASA and Stanley Kubrick?
Did you work at Frankenstein's?
It’s a story which is intriguing curators at the Musuem of Science & Industry (MSIM) who are trying to track down the people who worked there in the 1960s and possibly created the two most famous spacesuits ever made.
They want to hear first hand from people who worked at the pioneering factory, to find out how the 2001 spacesuit was made and to record any interesting anecdotes for their Histories Revealed project.
The Project aims to gather oral histories from people who worked at companies in East Manchester or from the textile industry.
Project officer Susie Elliott said: “Frankenstein & 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.
“Not only did Frankenstein’s produce spacesuits for Kubrick, it was one of two Manchester companies that contributed to the design of the Apollo spacesuit that allowed Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon just a year later.
“We are keen to hear from anyone who may be able to tell us their stories of working for Frankenstein’s, and help us reveal the fascinating anecdotes and human stories behind our collections.”
P Frankenstein and Sons Ltd. (which later became the Frankenstein Group Ltd), was founded in 1854 and had a base at the Victoria Rubber Works in Newton Heath.
It was a textiles company which began to specialise in working with rubberised fabrics and from the 1940s it produced specialised safety flying and survival equipment.
In 1959, it produced a prototype flying suit circulating liquid through pipes incorporated within clothing which was used by NASA in trials to develop the Apollo spacesuit.
Another Manchester company, Baxter, Woodhouse & Taylor, developed the seals adopted for use in the same spacesuit.
last updated: 18/10/07