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NASA Comes to Airstream
The first Airstream trailers company-founder Wally Byam ever built were made out of Masonite, a type of hardboard made of pressed-wood fibers. But for 78 years, the trailers have been made of shiny, malleable aluminum. They are built with the same precision and attention to detail as an airplane's fuselage.

Each Airstream requires on average 750 square feet of aluminum cut into hundreds of pieces to construct. Workers team up to rivet pieces of the metal shell together, making sure to carefully place each rivet as to not dent or compromise the material.

That teamwork is the cornerstone of Airstream's training program. Employees rely on a specific team for training and mentorship when they are first hired. But it's common, even applauded, for Airstream employees to jump from department to department during their careers, acquiring knowledge and sharing their own along the way.

For Larry Metz and Bob Sanford, that knowledge computes into what might as well be doctoral degrees in RV. Neither have a college education, as they both started at Airstream right out of high school. Aside from a milk route and working on the family farm, Airstream is the only full-time job Metz has ever held. His photo on the anniversary board is in the 50-year group. Sanford has been with the company since 1967.

One of the best jobs Sanford has had at Airstream was helping to build a special trailer to house the astronauts from the Apollo 11 moon landing. Because NASA feared what the astronauts might bring back from space, they needed an airtight land capsule that could stop hypothetical alien pathogens from escaping into Earth's atmosphere.

"It was a very restricted build process," Sanford remembers. "My part was to build two end shells and part of the body assembly. It was quite an accomplishment because it was something nobody knew about. You knew there was an event happening that wasn't going to happen for another couple years, so you were kind of anxious but also had a lot of pride about it as well."

With all those years on the job at Airstream, Sanford and Metz could have taken jobs elsewhere. In 1985, Honda opened a plant in Anna, Ohio, just 20 minutes away. It was a big deal that a Japanese company had picked a little town in Ohio to build its cars. And Sanford says he'd be lying if he didn't think about leaving-but not for long.

"But then I realized what I had at Airstream and what a sacrifice it may be to go somewhere else," he says. So he stayed and has thrived in the company's research and development division, becoming the go-to guy to fix and tweak machinery at the plant.

"The people you work with here are a big incentive to stay," he says with a smile. "Besides, were else can you go and work on cool projects like with NASA?!"


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  • 111 Comments
      clafoon
      • 7 Months Ago
      I was an Airstream owner. I am now 79 years old and have stopped going down the road in my RV. Yes I knew about the Airstream involvement with NASA. I worked for a Nasa Contractor when the Space Program begain. Many people do not realize that Airstream also makes portable Medical Facilities for use in very Rural America. They are Large Motor Homes that have been modified to handle Medical situations and are driven around the Country. They are basiclly Doctors Offices on wheels. They are completely self contained and can function out in the middle of a Pastuer if required.
        Velocity105
        • 1 Month Ago
        @clafoon

        Pastuer?  That's kind of a double entendre oxymoron irony isn't it since Pasteur was a doctor and you misspelled it and capitalized the first letter meaning all along to say pasture.  Nice one if intended.

          leftdap52
          • 1 Month Ago
          @Velocity105

          VELOSHITTY.....and who died and left you the GRAMMAR Police..??

          Charles Arroyo
          • 1 Month Ago
          @Velocity105

          Well you're partly right...Pasteur was a doctor and a procedure also, I won't go into detail because we all know what this procedure is and anyhow we all know what he meant...Since you blundered on your correction...Good day 

          John Schlobohm
          • 1 Month Ago
          @Velocity105

          Must be a right winger. They do all the spell checking .on line, because they think they are all superior intellects. Wrong??

          Bob
          • 1 Month Ago
          @Velocity105

          Jackass.

      brennemanbelkin
      • 7 Months Ago
      Some things are worth paying for. (Real Band Aids, Bush's beans) Airstream.
      Ray Meyer
      • 7 Months Ago
      The movie was the Long, Long, Trailer and the actors were Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, her husband at the time. She colelcted rocks for all the places they visited.
      mkrystmas
      • 7 Months Ago
      My Great Aunt Lillian and her husband cris crossed the United States every other year in their Airstream. We would always wait to see the glowing silver bullet as we saw it coming down the road. I don't know how old Uncle Joe was when he left us but I do know that Great Aunt Lillian lived to be 98 years young. I wonder what ever happened to the Silver Bullet Airstream. I never had an opportunity to travel in this amazing machine...but I do remember when you walked inside you felt so safe.
      gcanning775
      • 7 Months Ago
      nothing is worse than space cooties!
      PeteBB
      • 7 Months Ago
      Airstream should have mentioned an old, comic movie with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball (Don't remember the movie name) in which they were vacationing in an Airstream.
      jbkg01
      • 7 Months Ago
      I was 22, newly married and living in Spokane, Washington. I won't swear that I knew that the facility where the astronauts were kept after retuning from the moon was an Airstream, but I certainly knew that they were to be kept in quarantine for a period. This was no secret, and it may have been so widely discussed that it did not seem memorable to many. On a second note, not only does the story have inaccuracies, but it is very poorly written, difficult to follow. These days, anyone can post on the internet, and often there is little research done, proofreading, or any quality control whatsoever. Since our schools no longer educate the students on spelling, sentence or story structure, and generally encourage what ever feels good, the "news" posted often is not of any note whatsoever, dull, insipid, and false.
        ashespaw
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jbkg01

        I had no difficulty reading and comprehending what the author intended.  Do you have a learning disability?

        Henry Bevis
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jbkg01

        I did not have a bit of trouble following this story.

        jakki051
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jbkg01

        Always complaining!!!!!!!!! I agree with the others that maybe you have a learning disability! 

        Jerry Edward
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jbkg01

        I work at a university where I teach academic writing. Students come to us with varying skill levels as one would assume, but most are adequately prepared. A lack of proofreading, editing and fact checking is not the fault of educators. We do teach students how to do these things. 

        jrrg
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jbkg01

        Amen.


        jpgrooster
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jbkg01

        I don't think they were "reTUNing from the moon..." speaking of inaccuracies... but I understand that you meant "returning," ---and really, the article was more about the lesser knowledge of the vehicle used for this event than about all of the other history details associated with it.

          Bob
          • 1 Month Ago
          @jpgrooster

          Well, aren't YOU quite the horse's ass.

      qaqs9000
      • 7 Months Ago
      Not a big secret. Not an unknown thing. Anyone that watched TV at that time was aware that the airstream was to be used for the short period of time to insure nothing would be allowed to come back to Earth in the form of a virus or bacterium. This article shows a normal HP yellow journalism banner written by someone that wasn't even alive at the time. Grow up and do some decent research.
        mhdjl
        • 1 Month Ago
        @qaqs9000

        The author must be very young to not know that it was all over the tv back in the day. I remember the to-do going on at the time.

        csnj
        • 1 Month Ago
        @qaqs9000

        Why does it have to be an unknown secret? Lots of people reading this weren't alive then either - don't they deserve this information if they want it? It was the search for knowledge that led us to the moon in the first place. My, but you have a strange definition of yellow journalism.

          Fearless Leader
          • 1 Month Ago
          @csnj

          The story "alleges", that this was "secret or unknown": and that is inaccurate, I was in grade school and was aware of Airstream's involvement.

      Billy Rogers
      • 7 Months Ago
      It seems that no one at the time was aware that a 'critical' situation had been totally overlooked. I even questioned it when I saw the astronauts in their 'trailer'. When the Apollo capsule 'splashed down', the hatch was open and the astronauts were extracted wearing their protective gear if I remember correctly. HOWEVER, my question was simple: If some "Andromeda Strain" had managed to survive on the moon, infesting the lunar module as the 'moonwalkers' went strolled 'merrily along', then stayed inside the module until they returned to earth, what about that 'opening' in the ocean? If anything 'came back with the astrounauts', it would have been gleefully let loose at that time, contaminating the water, the air, all the 'rescue crew', etc. and by now, we might not be reading about this at all. Just Bringing Up A Point...
        Mike Keefer
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Billy Rogers
        Remember the Lunar Module did not land on Earth. The Samples were all sealed up while on the Moon, long before they were transferred to the Apollo capsule. The Suits and everything that was driectly exposed to the Lunar surface stayed in the Lunar Module. So, any "Andromeda Strain" would be on or in the astronauts themselves, as anything that went airborne would have ended up in the ventillation system filters.
        kingofswords72
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Billy Rogers
        I was thinking the same thing but just figured it was a chance they had to take initially because they had no other alternatives available. They just used the least exposing option they had at the time. I'm guessing the NASA scientists estimated that is there was a virus/bacteria that hitchhiked home with them it would have infected the humans and that is why they immediately put them in the quarantine capsule. I'm guessing the risk of a small amount of a biological element released in the middle of the ocean or into the air many miles from shore would have little chance of surviving. But, you never know what's out there.
        gasmanrobe
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Billy Rogers

        yeah thats how zombies are born . lol

      Billy Rogers
      • 1 Month Ago

      What's amazing and no one speaks of is he fact that once the capsule splashed down and Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins emerged covered in their contamination gear, any pathogens that might have transferred from the lunar landscape into the 'lander' and then back to the capsule, would have immediately gotten airborne. And also would have 'contaminated' the waters. And yet, we foolishly believed that that trailer would save the earth!

      alfredschrader
      • 7 Months Ago
      I actually saw that at Cape Canaveral in 1968. Today it's Kennedy Space Center.
      lkb1141
      • 1 Month Ago

      WHAT A BUNCH OF TOTAL BS YOU PEOPLE ARE MAKING COMMENTS JUST TO GET YOUR NAME ON.

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