The Smithsonian Races To Save Neil Armstrong’s Space Suit

If you’re like me and also get extremely excited about museums, then sprawling and expansive Smithsonian in D.C. is like a dream come true. It has 19 museums, nine research centers, and a zoo. But the Smithsonian is changing with the times. They recently formed a partnership with Kickstarter to help them bankroll a number of projects over the next few years.

The first one is obviously for space. We all love space. We like watching movies, books, and TV shows about other planets, galaxies, and aliens. Anyone who’s been to even a few of the Smithsonian’s buildings can tell you that while all the museums in their collection are the bomb, the true highlight is the National Air and Space Museum.

Armstrong's suit-waiting to be restored and displayed
Armstrong’s suit-waiting to be restored and displayed

Recently the Smithsonian launched their Kickstarter campaign to restore Neil Armstrong’s suit from his infamous walk on the moon more than 46 years ago. In the decades since his return, the suit has eroded, despite being kept in a climate controlled atmosphere. Air and Space wants to restore the suit and display it to influence the next generation. With the 50th anniversary of the space launch in less than 4 years, the Smithsonian expects to have the suit displayed in time for the Anniversary in 2019.

You might be asking, why is this suit important or why should you care? BECAUSE ‘MURICA. It’s funny, but it’s also true—the Apollo 11 Moon landing was one of the greatest achievements in the history of Earth. According to the Kickstarter page, “Bringing Armstrong’s spacesuit back not only helps honor the accomplishments of a generation who brought us from Earth to the Moon in less than nine years, it also inspires the next generation of bold space explorers.” 

The suit is a part of our history both as a nation and as humans. This story is important, and this campaign is geared toward saving a rare and tangible piece of history. This suit is real. It’s been on the moon, withstood the vacuum of space, and made it back to earth. You won’t be able to touch the suit, but maybe by seeing it you can touch history.

This suit will be part of a larger renovated exhibition called Destination Moon. The exhibit will feature other artifacts, including a huge moon mural painted by the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell in 1957, the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule in which Alan Shepard became the first American in space, the Gemini 7 spacecraft, the giant F-1 rocket engine, the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, parts of the Apollo Mission Simulator, and many small artifacts. The exhibition will also display the Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter spacecraft currently hanging elsewhere in the Museum, and at least one other robotic spacecraft from a more recent mission. 

Armstrong on the moon 1969
Armstrong on the moon 1969

They set a goal at $500,000, but they’ve already surpassed it by more than $200,000, and with less than two weeks left to go that number is sure to shoot up even more. They’re raising the stakes, aiming to bring in additional revenue to restore Alan Shepard’s suit as well. Backers can receive rewards such as a “Reboot the Suit” cling-on or poster, a subscription to Air & Space magazine, a limited edition 3D model of the suit, and behind-the-scenes experiences at the museum. With contribution levels ranging from $1 to $10,000, you can pick whatever is possible for your budget, and you’re certain to get some great space memorabilia out of it.

This isn’t the first time a museum has used a crowdfunding campaign has been used to pay for an exhibit. I’m from Huntsville, Alabama—also known as “the Rocket City”—which most well-known for having the highest concentration of engineers in the country. We also boast our own space museum, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC). In 2012, the center bought a Gulfstream II, and they used Indiegogo to fund the $70,000 needed to restore it and bring it to Huntsville. That project reached its goal in May 2014 and the jet will be coming soon to USSRC.

What’s cool about the crowdfunding is that we feel a part of the process. We get to feel like we are directly responsible for helping Neil Armstrong’s suit get restored so we can go see it. We gave our money and told others and now we have a small prize and the pride of knowing we helped. Do your part to help #rebootthesuit and go here to become a backer.

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