US$720,000 raised to re­store Armstrong space­suit


The Smith­so­nian’s first shot at online crowd­fund­ing ended Wed­nes­day af­ter rais­ing a hefty US$719,779 to re­store the space­suit that Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the moon.

A to­tal of 9,477 peo­ple con­trib­uted to the month­long Kick­starter “Re­boot the Suit” cam­paign, which sur­passed its US$500,000 goal on July 24.

The wind­fall means the Smith­so­nian will have money to spare to pre­serve and dis­play a sec­ond space­suit used by Alan Shep­ard, the first Amer­i­can in space.

“It is mind-blow­ing,” Yoon­hyung Lee, the Smith­so­nian’s di­rec­tor of dig­i­tal phi­lan­thropy, told AFP in an in­ter­view at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum in down­town Washington.

“We did not re­ally ex­pect to both hit our goal so quickly and also to ex­ceed our goal so dra­mat­i­cally. This was a huge tri­umph for us.”

It was the first time the Smith­so­nian has turned to crowd­fund­ing to help cover the cost of pre­serv­ing its most valu­able ar­ti­facts from the rav­ages of time.

The cam­paign lifted off on July 20, the 46th an­niver­sary of the his­toric Apollo 11 lu­nar land­ing. Its con­clu­sion co­in­cided with Na­tional Avi­a­tion Day.

With cash in hand, the Smith­so­nian is now aim­ing to have Armstrong’s white space­suit and hel­met ready for public view­ing by the 50th an­niver­sary in 2019.

“The suit is pretty frag­ile,” Lisa Young, the Smith­so­nian cu­ra­tor tasked with over­see­ing its three-year restora­tion pro­ject, told AFP.

“It’s reach­ing about its 50-year life­span right now. A lot of its ma­te­ri­als were made for tem­po­rary use — to get to the moon and back,” she said.

Get­ting Brit­tle

“We see the rub­ber get­ting a lit­tle bit brit­tle. The in­te­rior por­tions that the public doesn’t see are what’s re­ally the most frag­ile.”

Lay­ers of poly­mers were used to cre­ate the suit, but back in the 1960s sci­en­tists had no clear idea how long they would last, Young ex­plained. “Nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als tend to last longer,” she said. The U.S. gov­ern­ment pays for the up­keep of the Smith­so­nian’s net­work of 19 mu­se­ums and gal­leries as well as the cost of safe­guard­ing their col­lec­tions.

But ex­hi­bi­tions and restora­tions de­pend largely on pri­vate do­na­tions.

Depend­ing on how much they put in, back­ers of the Kick­starter ap­peal got re­wards rang­ing from a NASA space mis­sion patch to a printed 3D copy of Armstrong’s space glove.

Nine peo­ple who each put in the max­i­mum con­tri­bu­tion of US$10,000 will be in­vited to see the moon suit at the Smith­so­nian’s aerospace con­ser­va­tion lab.

For Amer­i­cans, such con­tri­bu­tions are tax-de­ductible.

Go­ing for­ward, the Smith­so­nian is plan­ning more crowd­fund­ing projects this year un­der a part­ner- ship with Kick­starter.

How­ever, it has yet to de­cide what ex­actly those projects will be.

Armstrong died in his na­tive Ohio three years ago this month at the age of 82.

But the Apollo 11 capsule in which he and two fel­low astro­nauts trav­eled to the moon en­dures as a cen­ter­piece of the Smith­so­nian Air and Space Mu­seum along the Na­tional Mall in down­town Washington.

Early Space Trav­eler

Shep­ard be­came the sec­ond per­son ever to travel into space, and the first Amer­i­can, in 1961 as an as­tro­naut in NASA’s path­break­ing Mer­cury pro­gram.

In 1971 he be­came the fifth and old­est per­son to walk on the moon as com­man­der of the Apollo 14 mis­sion. He died in Cal­i­for­nia in 1998 at the age of 74.

The most suc­cess­ful Kick­starter cam­paign of all time raised more than US$20 mil­lion for Peb­ble, a Tai­wan-made smart­watch that went on sale this month, com­pet­ing against the Ap­ple Watch.

But per­haps the best known was a 2013 ef­fort to bankroll a fea­ture film ver­sion of the cult U.S. de­tec­tive mys­tery TV se­ries “Veron­ica Mars.”

It met its US$2 mil­lion goal within 10 hours and ul­ti­mately reached US$5.7 mil­lion.

With an an­nex along­side Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port out­side Washington, the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum holds the world’s big­gest col­lec­tion of his­toric air­craft and space­craft.


This un­dated NASA hand­out photo shows the of­fi­cial por­trait of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon.

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