Authored by Nancie Joseph
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the famous words of Neil Armstrong the day he walked on the moon. “Forty-six years ago, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, he had a little piece of Delaware with him” (Bittle 2015). His space suit was made in the building that is now Campus Community School at 350 Pear Street in Dover, Delaware. This is the story of a building where space suits were once made, which is now filled with laughter and learning.
Documentation for the building dates back to 1968. “The International Latex Corporation (ILC) Inc. designed, developed, and manufactured space suits used in NASA’s Apollo Program (Securities and Exchange Commission 1968). During “World War II, the entire U.S. supply of latex was stored in underground vaults,” (Mammarella 2017) before ILC created space suits in the building.
The International Latex Corporation moved to its current location in Frederica, Delaware in 1975. Today, the ILC still makes all space suits for NASA since the Apollo Project, as well as various other high performance flexible materials. They changed their name to “ILC Dover” when they moved to Frederica, Delaware.
Suits Made at the International Latex Corporation
The space suits have patches on them, telling specific information in just a few letters and numbers. For example, the suit that Neil Armstrong wore (Apollo 7), “had an A7L model (the A7 indicates it was the seventh Apollo spacesuit, while the L shows it was made by ILC) was, like all astronaut suits, custom-made for each user” (Rossen 2016). Finally, “in 1972, Mr. Armstrong’s historic suit was given to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where it was on display until 2006” (Bittle 2015).
350 Pear Street after the International Latex Corporation
What has become of the building at 350 Pear Street? A part of the building still stands today. It was rented as a warehouse from 1975 until 2002. “Following extensive renovations and improvements, this historic structure was reopened in September 2002 as the Campus Community High School” (Delaware Public Archives 2000). A part of the building was torn down for parking.
The Campus Community School today
In 2011, the Campus Community School High closed, and 350 Pear Street became the home of Campus Community School, a K-8 charter school (The school used to be 1-12 grades, with 1-8 in a different building). Today, approximately four hundred fifteen students and sixty-five staff walk the halls where the first space suit on the moon was created. Today, a playground and parking lot sit where a part of the building was torn down to make the building a school.
Neither the students nor staff maintain this artifact. However the values of the under and misrepresented students of the school still align closely to the Vincentian Community pillars. The students show respect for the school by volunteering to keep both the inside and outside clean during recess, lunch, after school and over the summer. The middle school students demonstrate opportunity by completing service-learning hours, where they help in the community in some way. Love is demonstrated through the bonds that are formed not only among students their age, but also across grade levels and with staff. Finally, students that believe in God, are not afraid or ashamed to let others know what they believe through song and actions.
Bittle, Matt. 2015. “Effort on to preserve Armstrong’s ILC spacesuit.” Delaware State News, https://delawarestatenews.net/news/effort-on-to-preserve-armstrongs-ilc-spacesuit/
Delaware Public Archives. 2000. “Kent county markers: Former site of ILC Dover makers moonsuit.”Delaware Public Archives. Accessed February 28. https://archives.delaware.gov/markers/kc/KC-86.shtml
Mammarella, Ken. 2017. “The stories behind Delaware’s ruins and remnants.” The News Journal, January 21. https://www.delawareonline.com/story/life/2017/01/21/stories-behind-delawares-ruins-remnants/96915240/
Rossen, Jake. 2016. “How Platex helped win the space race.” Mental Floss.,July 18. http://mentalfloss.com/article/82726/how-playtex-helped-win-space-race
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC Docket. Issue No. 68-248 (December 20, 1968) (Available at https://www.sec.gov/news/digest/1968/dig122068.pdf)