The Transylvania Times -

Local Thread Weaved Into U.S. History – Brevard, NC

 

July 18, 2019

With the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's moon landing on July 20, 1969, this Saturday, Brevard local Victoria Trent recalled untangling the material that threaded her into the fabric of NASA's lunar history.

"It was so hard to straighten out. I remember telling my supervisor, 'I'd like to send this off to the moon with them,'" the 90-year-old Trent joked.

And that's exactly where the thread she wound went: into the spacesuits that were made by NASA and worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Trent worked for Belding Corticelli Thread Company (now Coats North America) in Hendersonville from 1957 to 1987.

The fiber with which she worked arrived as a raw material, or a synthetic polymer, she said, and they twined it together at varying strengths.

It was then coated with a liquid solution and run through heat "hotter than Hades," Trent said, which made it the nylon found in many products, such as Nike shoes and flavored dental floss.

"They used it for everything, and you'd never know looking at a spool of thread what goes into it," she said. "The thread was put on a spindle, buttons were pushed, and a chain took it through these towers where this liquid bond was baked on it."

Trent started out as "winder."

"When I began working there the thread was black and white, and when I retired it came in all colors of the rainbow," she said.

In her last 15 years at Coats, she was the assistant to the manager of the bobbing department.

Current Plant Manager Annette Ward remembers Trent.

"When I first started working she was still here," Ward said. "She still comes to our company picnics. She's a wonderful lady."

Though Trent couldn't remember the name of the material and how it made its way to NASA from Belding Coticelli, Ward and others researched and found that it was a fiberglass thread with a nylon coating on it called Glasmo PTFE.

According to information provided by Coats, it's a "temperature resistant fiberglass sewing thread with exceptional thermal stability that can perform in temperatures up to 593 Celsius."

"We still make it, but it's not used for space suits anymore," Ward said.

At the time, it was sold to ILC Dover, a manufacturing and engineering development company in Delaware that makes products for aerospace, personal protection and pharmaceutical industries.

"ILC Dover were the ones who actually made the space suits for the Apollo missions," Ward said.

Later, Coats used a liquid crystal polymer thread called "Atlantis" thread that is used for aerospace, such as on NASA's Pathfinder mission to Mars.

Kristina Blissett, head of communications at Coats in the U.K., said the thread is an "extreme high resistance raw material that retains its dimensional rigidity even under extreme stretch, flex and bend tensions and under extreme cold or heat conditions," and that it was used on the Mars Pathfinder mission to sew air bags.

Trent, whose birthday is this Sunday, said she watched the moon landing from her home, said it makes her "proud" to have "helped the nation progress."

 
 

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