Smithsonian crowdfunds preservation of Neil Armstrong's spacesuit

If you've ever wanted to lend a hand preserving a piece of US history, now's your chance. The Smithsonian launched a Kickstarter campaign to gain support for restoring Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit for display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. While the artifact hasn't been on display since 2006, funds raised through the effort would allow it to be properly preserved ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission in 2019 and for an upcoming "Destination Moon" gallery that's scheduled to open in 2020. The campaign is seeking $500,000 to cover the cost of the conservation project and a climate-controlled case for the suit. During the course of the preservation, the suit will get faded colors in the American flag patch stabilized to prevent further deterioration, stains removed and a careful cleaning to keep lunar dust in place. Funds will also be used to construct a digital version via 3D scan so that classrooms around the world can examine it in detail for the first time.

While using Kickstarter may seem a bit odd, the Smithsonian's funding for new exhibits often comes from private donations, and it's doing that here. The government lends a hand with "core functions" like keeping the artifacts safe, research and maintenance on the museum facilities, but programs, digitization of collections and new exhibitions are usually supported by donors. In fact, this is the first campaign in what the Institution is calling a pilot year for crowdfunding through a partnership with Kickstarter. This will allow the public to support a group of projects based on personal interest. If you're eager to help out, rewards range from a mission patch to 3D-printed replica of Armstrong's glove and a range of private events. The Kickstarter campaign began today, so you have until mid-August to pledge your support for the project.

[Image credit: Mark Avino, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution]