Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit
Thank you for helping us meet our $500,000 goal, now the mission continues! As you know, Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit will be temporarily displayed in time for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing in 2019, but in the long-term, it will be a centerpiece of a brand new exhibition, Destination Moon, at the Museum in Washington, DC. Planned to open in 2020, Destination Moon will show those who remember the 1960s, as well as generations born afterward, how an extraordinary combination of motivations, resources, and technologies made it possible for people to walk on the Moon. The new gallery will explore how Armstrong’s “one small step…” in July 1969, in the context of the bitter, global Cold War taking place at the time, became not only a triumph for the United States, but an accomplishment that resonated around the world.
We have shared many of the artifacts planned for display in Destination Moon on our project page below. For our next goal, we are headed from $500,000 to $700,000 to tell the story of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. We plan to conserve, digitize, and display the Mercury suit Shepard wore during the first American manned space flight in 1961. Along with Armstrong’s suit, Shepard’s -- and many other suits planned for display in the new gallery – will show the progression of spacesuit technology during the space race era.
Let’s keep this incredible momentum going! Next stop: $700,000!
July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, a feat so breathtaking in its scope and ambition that it captured the collective imaginations of audiences around the world. At the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, we use the power of real objects to tell stories like this one – stories of the vision, intellect, and courage of men and women who have overcome challenges and pushed boundaries to take the next giant leap for humankind.
For the Smithsonian’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign, we are proud to announce plans to conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit in time for this milestone anniversary. We want to preserve Armstrong’s spacesuit – and the story it tells of its incredible journey – down to the particles of lunar dust that cling to its surface. Just like the Apollo program, we will accomplish this in collaboration of thousands of people across the country and around the world. And that’s where you come in.
Isn't the Smithsonian federally funded? Good question! Federal appropriations provide the foundation of the Smithsonian's operating budget and support core functions, such as building operations and maintenance, research, and safeguarding the collections. Projects like Reboot the Suit aren’t covered by our federal appropriations, which means we can only undertake them if we can fund them some other way. In other words, we won’t be able to do this project without the participation of Kickstarter backers.
Kickstarter gives a wide audience the chance to be a part of this project. We're inviting you to go behind the scenes and be a part of the process – from fundraising through conservation to display. All backers will receive regular updates on the process and can follow along each step of the way.
Neil Armstrong's spacesuit – like most of the spacesuits in the Museum’s collection – is currently being stored in a climate-controlled collections storage area that is not accessible to the public.
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.
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.
Will the suit look dramatically different when the project is complete? Not to the naked eye. Conservation is the process of documenting, stabilizing and protecting an artifact, not modifying it to make it “like new.”
So why does it take so long? 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.
As we complete this research, we’ll be using state-of-the-art techniques in 3D scanning, photogrammetry, chemical analysis, CT scanning, and other means available to create a detailed map of the suit that will document its condition in the most complete way possible. This work will inform a condition assessment that will help us create the appropriate environment for public display while preserving the suit in its current condition.
3D scanning the Armstrong spacesuit gives us the chance to put the suit directly into your hands. With a 3D scan of the suit, you can take a self-guided tour and explore the functions of each of the suit’s 21 layers (check out 3D models of other iconic Smithsonian collection objects). You can make a 3D print of Armstrong’s glove and slip it over your hand. Teachers will have a dynamic new tool for talking about the technology required for living and working in space. 3D scanning also ensures that our conservators and curators have an accurate picture of the suit in its current condition, helping to monitor and preserve the suit and protect it from further deterioration.
The Smithsonian’s Digitization team is doing work that will revolutionize the way we interact with and learn from the artifacts in our collection. The team has already scanned a number of the Smithsonian’s iconic artifacts, from the Wright Flyer to the Bell X-1, and is currently in the planning stages to scan the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Check out this clip from “CBS Saturday Morning” to see how the team digitizes everything from the Spirit of St. Louis to a sitting American president.
Take a look at our list of rewards to learn how you can get priority access to 3D scans and 3D prints of the suit!
The suit will be put on display at the Museum in Washington, DC, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in 2019. The suit will eventually be permanently displayed as a centerpiece in the future Destination Moon exhibition, a completely redesigned and updated gallery that will bring the exciting story of lunar exploration to a new generation.
In addition to the Armstrong spacesuit, Destination Moon will feature several other significant 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.
The Apollo 11 Moon landing was one of the single greatest achievements in the history of humankind. 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 cultural heritage, and safeguarding it recognizes its importance in telling the story of a remarkable accomplishment. And because it is the real thing, seeing the suit provides a tangible way of touching history.
We're offering some fantastic rewards, most of which are exclusive to this Kickstarter project. Backers can receive rewards such as a "Reboot the Suit" cling-on, a mission patch designed by graphic designer Michael Okuda, a "Reboot the Suit" poster, membership in the National Air and Space Society, which includes a subscription to Air & Space Magazine, behind-the-scenes experiences at the Museum, and much more.
Your pledge is tax deductible! The amount of your contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the difference between your pledge minus the fair market value of the reward. If our project is completed and the goal is met, you will be asked to fill out a survey so that we can send you your rewards. The Smithsonian Institution is unable to recognize your gift unless the informational survey is completed.
Please allow an additional 2-6 weeks for your reward to ship internationally. Note: we are not responsible for international custom fees.
Some of the rewards are experiences (tours, events, lectures) offered at a specific time and place. The Smithsonian and ILC Dover are not responsible for any backer’s travel or costs to participate in such experiences. Further, if a cause beyond the Smithsonian and ILC Dover's control requires rescheduling or cancellation of an experience, the Smithsonian and ILC Dover are not responsible for any additional travel or costs a backer may incur in order to participate at the new time. The Smithsonian and ILC Dover cannot guarantee that experiences occurring on dates yet to be announced, or that must be rescheduled, will occur on a date that is convenient for all backers.
- Costs for research, materials, and tools for conservation work
- Construction of a custom-built mannequin to support the suit
- State-of-the-art display case
- 3D scanning and production of online 3D model
- A webcast educational program, STEM in 30
- Publication on the suit, history and conservation of spacesuit materials
The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum maintains the world's largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, encompassing all aspects of human flight, as well as related works of art and archival materials. It operates two landmark facilities that, together, welcome more than eight million visitors a year, making it the most visited museum in the country. It also is home to the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.
The Museum's two buildings house thousands of artifacts showcased in exhibitions on aviation, space exploration, and planetary science. At both of its locations, the Museum presents programs, educational activities, lectures, and performances that reflect the American spirit, and the innovation, courage, and optimism that have led to triumphs in the history, science, and technology of flight. At the Museum in the nation's capital, which opened in 1976 and is located in the heart of the Smithsonian complex in Washington, DC, some of the most awe-inspiring icons of flight are on display. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, is a massive structure with open, hangar-like settings that accommodate large aircraft and spacecraft, as well as entire collections of aviation and space artifacts.
Risks and challenges
No matter the outcome of this project, Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit will be cared for and safeguarded for as long as the Smithsonian Institution exists (and we’ve been around for 169 years so far). But we want to do more than keep the spacesuit safe — we want to display it for all to see. The only risk we have is not meeting our deadline to have it conserved, digitized, and on display in time for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. There is very little that stands in our way of meeting this goal once we have the funds in hand. We have an actionable plan, a realistic timeline, and – most importantly – the in-house expertise to get the job done well.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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