On the same day that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon 46 years ago, a Kickstarter campaign was launched by the National Air and Space Museum to fund a project aiming to conserve, digitize and showcase the astronaut's Apollo 11 spacesuit.
Spacesuits may have been built to withstand the environment in space but they were not built to last for hundreds of years in a museum. Given the history they bring, spacesuits are important artifacts, albeit some of the most fragile housed in the museum. Because of this delicate nature of spacesuits, Armstrong's will have to be conserved before the public can view it, displayed in a state-of-the-art case with climate control.
However, the effort will require $500,000 and that's money the Smithsonian Institution does not have. Hence, the Kickstarter campaign "Reboot the Suit" was launched.
Doesn't the Smithsonian receive federal funding?
Yes, it does, but those funds go into the institution's operating expenses, supporting core functions such as research, maintenance, building operations and safeguarding collections. Federal appropriations don't cover special projects like Reboot the Suit, which is why the Smithsonian Institution is turning to the public for assistance.
Reboot the Suit is Smithsonian's first project as it teams up with Kickstarter for a year-long partnership that will see to the funding of various museum projects. Like any other Kickstarter campaign though, Reboot the Suit must meet its $500,000 goal within 30 days or none of the supporters will be charged. This means if the Smithsonian doesn't achieve its intended goal, it cannot instead get what has so far been contributed to the campaign. Essentially, it's either the campaign is successful or it's not.
Armstrong's suit hasn't been on display since 2006, but if the campaign is successful, it will be well on its way to becoming a central piece for a new gallery in 2020, after it is showcased for the Apollo 11's 50th mission anniversary in 2019.
Cathy Lewis, Air and Space spacesuit curator, said asking contributions from private donors is a standard fundraising move. It is nothing new and Reboot the Suit will definitely not be the last for the Smithsonian.
"We're inviting people in to participate and get a glimpse of what we do every day. Backers of Kickstarter are motivated and interested and we're showing them the process," she said.