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To save Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit, Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter

American flag on the moon

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, left, and Buzz Aldrin set up a U.S. flag on the moon July 20, 1969. 

(NASA)

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is asking for help preserving and digitizing a suit worn by astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Of course, it's not just any suit. It's the Apollo 11 spacesuit Armstrong wore the day he became the first person to set foot on the moon, exactly 46 years ago.

The Smithsonian Institution launched the crowdfunding campaign, dubbed "Reboot the Suit," through Kickstarter. The institution said this is its first of multiple projects it wants to fund through Kickstarter.

The museum seeks to raise $500,000 in the next month in order to conserve the spacesuit, then digitize it with 3-D scanning before it is placed in a climate-controlled display case -- hopefully before July 2019, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Neil Armstrong trudges across the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, leaving behind footprints. (Associated Press)

The Smithsonian's operating expenses topped $1 billion a year in the last two fiscal years, according to its most recent annual report.

The museum receives federal funding, but those tax dollars go primarily toward its operating budget and building operations, it says. To do projects such as this one, it says, it needs donations.

(NASA)

As of Monday night, more than 2,000 backers had pledged a total exceeding $150,000.

Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82.

His spacesuit, "among the most fragile artifacts in the museum's collection," is currently stored in a climate-controlled collections storage, which not accessible to the public, the Smithsonian said.

"The Apollo suits were made to take astronauts to the moon and back safely -- not to last hundreds of years in a museum," it said on the Kickstarter page.

While the Smithsonian used the anniversary of the first moon landing to launch its fundraising campaign, Armstrong's moon landing partner, Buzz Aldrin, was sharing memories of the historic achievement.

"Landing was the hard part," the 85-year-old said on Twitter, alongside a picture of the July 21, 1969, cover of the New York Times. "Can't walk on the moon if you don't land first."

He also looked forward to the future of manned space exploration.

And for the people who might never have the chance to go there, he offered this insight: "When kids ask me what it felt like to walk on the moon I say 'squishy'!"

Follow Ryan Parker on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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