(WASHINGTON) — Call it one small step for museum curation.
In its first-ever Kickstarter campaign, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is asking the public for $500,000 to conserve and display the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore when he became the first man to walk on the moon.
“The Apollo 11 Moon landing was one of the single greatest achievements in the history of humankind,” the campaign proclaims. “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.”
Currently housed in a climate-controlled storage area, the 21-layer spacesuit is one of the museum’s most fragile artifacts, according the Smithsonian. Over time, the material has degraded, and light-sensitive colors in the flag on the shoulder have begun to fade. There’s also some staining on the pocket, which may or may not relate to its stint in space.
The Smithsonian says it will use the $500,000 to “reboot the suit” by conducting chemical analysis and CT scanning, researching conservation techniques, creating a 3-D scan, and preserving the garment “down to the particles of lunar dust that cling to its surface.”
Once preserved, the spacesuit will be put on display just in time for the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing on July 20, 2019. It will later be transferred to the museum’s Destination Moon exhibit, set to open in 2021.
Reboot the Suit is just the first in a series of Kickstarter campaigns the Smithsonian says it will use to crowdfund exhibits and artifacts.
In return for a tax-deductible donation, backers can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum, a 3-D print of Armstrong’s glove, or a Smithsonian flag flown from the Space Shuttle Discovery (“yes,” the campaign promises, “these flags actually went into space!”).
According to Kickstarter’s all-or-none policy, the campaign has just 30 days to achieve its $500,000 goal. If the project falls short, no one will be charged.
As of Monday morning, the campaign had already raised more than $17,000.
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