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The Smithsonian is crowd-funding the preservation of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit

'We won't be able to do this project without the participation of Kickstarter backers.'

The Smithsonian Institution wants you to help preserve Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Moon Landing spacesuit. The museum launched its very first Kickstarter campaign today, called "Reboot the Suit." The campaign aims to raise $500,000 to conserve, digitize, and display the spacesuit — a suit that hasn't been displayed publicly since 2006.

"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," the crowdfunding page explains. "We won't be able to do this project without the participation of Kickstarter backers."

Preserving the suit "down to the particles of lunar dust that cling to its surface."

Spacesuits are among the most fragile objects that the Smithsonian keeps in its collections. Thus, the only way it can be displayed publicly is if a scientist takes steps to stop its deterioration and constructs a high-tech display case that can mimic the conditions of the climate-controlled storage area where the suit is currently kept. The Reboot the Suit project isn't covered by the federal funding that the Smithsonian already receives; the museum says federal funding only covers its "core functions." That's why the institution needs the public's help to make this happen.

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 space suit displayed on a table top before the mission was flown (NASA / Wikimedia Commons)

Documenting the suit's appearance, in its current state, will be a huge part of this project. Scientists will use techniques like 3D and CT scanning to create a map of the suit. This work will help the researchers figure out exactly what display case they should construct. The 3D scans of the suit's 21 layers will also be used to crease a "self-guided tour" that will be made available online.

A 3D "self-guided tour" of the suit's 21 layers

Depending on how much they pledge, Kickstarter backers will receive rewards like patches, T-shirts, a 3D scan of Neil Armstrong's glove, and a boot print decal from the Apollo 11 mission. Once the project is completed, the suit will be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC — just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in 2019.

"The Apollo 11 Moon landing was one of the single greatest achievements in the history of humankind," the Smithsonian explains on 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."