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Next step for Armstrong’s spacesuit

29 July 2015

Neil Armstrong space suit being refurbished by Lisa Young
Lisa Young, who graduated with the BSc Conservation of Museum Objects and Archaeology, working on Neil Armstrong's space suit

Alumna at heart of efforts to preserve Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit

An alumna is at the heart of the conservation work on Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit, launched in a major campaign this week on the anniversary of the first walk on the moon in 1969.

The Smithsonian – a collection of leading museums in the United States – has embarked on a multi-project partnership with crowd funder Kickstarter to support conservation of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C.

Funds raised will also be used to conserve, digitize and display the spacesuit, taking approximately three years to finish.

Lisa Young, who graduated with the BSc Conservation of Museum Objects and Archaeology at Cardiff University, is working on the iconic suit. She said: “I am honoured to be able to contribute the skills gained through conservation training at the University, and am pleased that the funding was awarded to take the next steps to preserve this national icon. 

“It means a lot to the Museum, the public and the world - and we feel really strongly that we wanted to have the spacesuit back on display for the 50th anniversary in 2019 for everyone to see.”

Lisa became interested in modern materials and how they deteriorate after working on Civil War archaeological sites in Virginia, particularly the early polymers invented during this time period and began to research how these materials survived in the ground and why.

For the past two decades she has studied the technology, engineering and materials related to the aerospace collections at the NASM. 

In conversations with curators at the Museum, she learned that the early spacesuits were also beginning to show signs of aging and decay - in particular the rubber components. In 2000, the Museum received a Save America's Treasures grant to perform a research study on the spacesuits, and Lisa has been studying their conservation and preservation ever since.

The suit will be put on temporary display at the museum in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in July 2019. It will be permanently displayed as a centrepiece in the future Destination Moon gallery, scheduled to open in 2020.

Anyone can follow the campaign and project on social media with #RebootTheSuit.

The Air and Space Museum’s Kickstarter goal of $500,000 will include the cost of conserving the spacesuit, which will ensure its long-term preservation and ultimate display for the first time since 2006; provide a special climate-controlled display case for the spacesuit; and allow the Smithsonian to digitize the suit through 3-D scanning and make it accessible worldwide for the first time. From the digitization data, the museum will develop online tools for examining the entire suit and educational materials for use in classrooms everywhere.