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Moon landing spurs documentary by local filmmakers

Documentary tells Dover company's David and Goliath story of winning Apollo spacesuit contract
September 9, 2019

The celebration of the moon landing in July came and went about as quickly as one of the original rocket blastoffs. The flurry of interviews and reporting sparked by the 50th anniversary of the moon walk has died down, and now two area filmmakers have been busy putting together their own documentary on Delaware's crucial link to the historic event.

About six years ago, T.J. Healy, chairman of Delaware's Motion & Television Development Commission, who also runs Lewes-based Delaware Story Project Inc. with Katharine Gilbert, first heard about how a small Delaware company beat out larger industry titans to win the contract to make Apollo mission spacesuits. They both agree that David and Goliath is a perfect analogy for how the little-known International Latex Corporation won the contract of a lifetime. The two have even secured an English artist's depiction of David and Goliath to promote their documentary.

“It comes down to them stepping up and going toe-to-toe with all those big companies,” Gilbert said.

After ILC won the contract, astronauts flew into Dover Air Force Base on a regular basis for fittings at the nondescript facility wedged between Wesley College's playing fields and a line of railroad tracks.

“It's a huge story of what happened in Dover when a great team of artists and engineers got together and created the spacesuit,” Healy said.

Healy first heard about the Dover connection in a roundabout way. A relative mentioned someone was making a movie about ILC’s spacesuits, and after some inquiries, Healy said, he discovered it was true. About the same time, he met Tom Pribanic, a manager at ILC from 1967-74, who worked from the beginning of the Apollo spacesuit contract until the end.

Pribanic, now an associate producer for the documentary, spent hours interviewing with the first filmmakers, who have yet to release their film. “It's still sitting out there,” he said.

As producer for the documentary, Pribanic has put Healy and Gilbert in touch with the engineers and seamstresses behind the spacesuits that went to the moon. So far, Gilbert said, they have interviewed about 10 former employees, and they plan to wrap up filming before the end of the year.

Once it's a wrap, Gilbert said, they will shop the documentary to networks such as Smithsonian, Discovery and other science- or history-oriented stations.

Healy said they are still accepting donations for the documentary. For more information, visit www.Delawarestoryproject.com.