ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — There are 16,000 manufacturers in Illinois, but one Rockford company has made the coolest thing in the state.
Ingersoll Machine Tools’ “Rosenberg Moon Habitat” won the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s “Makers Madness” contest.
The company has been in the running with other inventions for the past few years. They beat out barbecue sauce, a radar system meant to assist drivers and a drug incinerator, used to help heath care organizations and law enforcement destroy drugs safely, to finally bring home the win this year.
Ingersoll worked with Switzerland’s Rosenberg Institute to make the moon habitat. It is the current concept to help humans figure out how to live on the moon when they go there.
“They’re meant for two astronauts to habitate in for upwards of 90 days,” said Jeff Ahrstrom, CEO of Ingersoll. “They’re 23 feet tall, 16 feet in diameter, and they have a living area, they have an airlock, they have a storage area and all that. But again, we’re doing this on Earth and we’re building it in Rockford.”
The habitat was announced as the “coolest thing made in Illinois” in Springfield on Wednesday.
“They’re going to have humans living in them to try and figure out how are we going to work on the moon in the future,” Ahrstrom said.
It is the world’s tallest single piece, 3D printed polymer structure. The plan is to stack the units on a Space X rocket that will be launched to the moon, where it will be assembled.
“Here we are 50 plus years later from the last time humankind was on the moon, and America’s leading the way back to the moon again,” Ahrstrom said.
It is starting here in the stateline. Ingersoll has been in Rockford since 1892, employing many residents.
“These are all local people, many people that have been here for 30 plus years. We’ve got two or three generations that are, you know, have worked in the factory. We just celebrated a 50-year working anniversary for someone a few weeks [ago], 50 years with Ingersoll,” Ahrstrom said. “We’re only 200 people, so that’s a fairly small company, and when you look at Ingersoll itself, we are the last, and I’ll say this again, the last large American machine tool builder.”
The company is continuing to push boundaries. They are currently starting to assemble the world’s largest Gregorian telescope, which will be nearly as tall as a space shuttle and more powerful than the James Webb and Hubble telescopes.
“We’re going to build it in Rockford. We’re going to tear it apart, we’re going to ship it down to a mountaintop in Chile and we’re going to reassemble it and then we’re going to help the world with some of the most advanced science there is,” Ahrstrom said. “And again, we’re doing it out of here, right out of here in Rockford.”
Ingersoll has a number of openings for electricians, engineers and tradespeople. Ahrstrom encourages all people, especially veterans, to check them out.