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Kickstarter and the Smithsonian Want to Digitize Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

The “Reboot the Suit” campaign is the first project from their planned partnership.

by Rachel Pick
Jul 20 2015, 6:10pm

Photo: Smithsonian Institution/Kickstarter

Today, crowdfunding giant Kickstarter and the Smithsonian Institution began funding for their first joint campaign: digitally preserving Neil Armstrong's famous Apollo 11 spacesuit.

The 50th anniversary of the moon landing is coming up in 2019, and the Smithsonian wants to scan the suit and put it on display in its National Air and Space Museum. The "Reboot the Suit" campaign is requesting $500,000, and was already at $50,000 by 2pm ET on July 20 despite having only just launched.

In case you're wondering what exactly "digital preservation" entails, the Smithsonian is planning to use "...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."

Some physical preservation is also in the works, as the spacesuit worn on Armstrong's famed moonwalk has begun to show its age. The Smithsonian does not intend to reverse any of the wear-and-tear the spacesuit has already accumulated, but simply prevent any more damage from happening. If all goes according to plan, even the lunar dust embedded in the fibers of the suit will be preserved in place. The suit is currently being stored in a special climate-controlled facility, and part of the budget for this campaign will go towards building a display case with similar conditions.

The planned 3D scanning of the suit will also grant museum visitors visual access to the suit in ways they'd never have ordinarily. The Smithsonian specifically imagines "a self-guided tour" where you could "explore the functions of each of the suit's 21 layers."

While the Smithsonian is federally funded, its allotted appropriations don't cover restoration projects like this one. Fans of science, history, and the arts might want to throw in a couple bucks so we can share this crucial artifact with future generations.

This is only the first of a series of projects from the new Kickstarter/Smithsonian partnership. As Kickstarter writes on its company blog, "Kickstarter is a place that honors creativity, past and present. We celebrate creators who are shaping the future—but we can't begin to think about what lies ahead without looking back. By supporting the work of preserving and sharing cultural artifacts, we can inspire future innovators to keep making amazing things." This is an intriguing new direction for the company, which seems to be looking to become a greater cultural force.

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