Of course, I’m not the first person to say these words. That’s how JFK kicked off his man on the moon speech in May 1961. He also said (slightly paraphrased), “We choose to go to the moon in this decade — not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” It’s an inspirational line, but come on. The real reason that JFK decided to put a man on the moon wasn’t because it was difficult. It was because just one month earlier, Yuri Gagarin — a Soviet! — had become the first man to go into space. Putting a man on the moon wasn’t just some lofty scientific experiment. It was a battle between democracy and communism. It was a mission to win the hearts and minds of Americans and of people all over the world.
To achieve this mission, NASA needed to innovate.
One of the most critical things it needed to develop was a spacesuit that would keep the astronauts alive on the lunar surface — and for many years, NASA thought it was going to get its innovation from science fiction. The organization, for example, built many spacesuits with hard exoskeletons that made the astronauts look like manly, rugged bad asses.
But the real space suit innovation didn’t come from science fiction. It came from women’s underwear.
One company, Playtex, was thinking about the spacesuit opportunity differently. Playtex executives saw how they could combine the latex in their girdles with the nylon tricot from their bras to create a protective layer that could hold up to harsh demands of space.