Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

The Smithsonian's Kickstarter mission to save Neil Armstrong's spacesuit

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph taken by Neil Armstrong Photo: Kickstarter

Designed to help mankind take its first steps on the moon 46 years ago but not to survive the subsequent decades on display in a museum, Neil Armstrong's spacesuit is no longer in mission-ready shape.

At present the suit, like most of the spacesuits in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum collection, is being stored in a climate-controlled storage area inaccessible to the public to prevent it from deteriorating.

The Smithsonian, of course, wants such an important cultural artifact conserved and put on display, so for the first time in its history, it's turned to crowdfunding.

ITV's Robert Moore went to find out how they plan to preserve it.

Lisa Young works on Neil Armstrong's spacesuit in the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory Credit: Kickstarter

Launched on Monday, a Kickstarter campaign dubbed "Reboot the Suit" is hoping to raise $500,000 "to conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11".

The museum says it can't get funding for projects like this one from the US government, which only provides money for building maintenance, research and security.

The campaign says: "To provide public display and access, Armstrong’s spacesuit requires conservation to stop current deterioration and a state-of-the-art display case that will mimic the climate-controlled environment where it is currently being safeguarded."

Parts of the suit in need of restoration Credit: Kickstarter

It continues: "You may be surprised to learn that spacesuits are among the most fragile artifacts in the Museum’s collection. The Apollo suits were made to take astronauts to the Moon and back safely -- not to last hundreds of years in a museum."

The Smithsonian's conservators aim to have the suit ready for the 50th anniversary of the moon landings in July 2019, four years from now.

They say: "We’re allowing plenty of time to get this right. The research and documentation we do now will literally write the book on the proper techniques for spacesuit conservation for every suit in our collection.

"Along the way, we’ll be consulting with those who contributed to making the suit and its materials, those who cared for it during the Apollo program, and materials experts throughout the world. Research, meetings, and mastering new techniques take time."