The space suit gets upgraded

  @FortuneMagazine December 19, 2013: 7:32 AM ET
FIO13 spacesuit

At ILC Dover, which made the first space suits for walking on the Moon, a lab manager tests new components on a suit used aboard the International Space Station.


For five decades ILC Dover, an engineering firm in Delaware farm country, has been outfitting astronauts for space -- everyone from Neil Armstrong to Sunita Williams, who performed a space walk outside the International Space Station (ISS) in 2012. And yet ILC (which was founded as International Latex Corp.) has never before embarked on its latest mission: to make a fashion-forward suit for NASA.

The prototype is called Z-2. A new palette will be chosen when, early this year, NASA unveils three designs by Philadelphia University fashion and industrial design students. The public gets to pick a winner. Each design will draw on one of three themes: NASA's history, sports and superheroes, and nature. NASA officials hope that the campaign will rekindle excitement for the space program. "Part of this came from the fact that commercial space flight is gearing up," says Amy Ross, a top space-suit engineer at NASA, "and part of what they want is for their space suits to look cool."

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