Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Spacesuit on Display at Smithsonian

Neil Armstrong on the Moon.
American astronaut Neil Armstrong on the Moon.
American astronaut Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Image: © NASA

It has been 13 years since astronaut Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from the historic Apollo 11 moon landing has been on display to the public. Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon, uttering his now-famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Now visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. can see the famed suit for themselves, as part of an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

For over a decade, the garment has been undergoing meticulous preservation efforts to minimize breakdown of the materials it is made from, but without removing any of the lunar dust that is still embedded in the spacesuit fibers. According to the Smithsonian, “The conservation of the suit included the creation of a detailed map through the imaging of X-rays, CT scanning and UV photography, as well as years of research.”

To further prevent deterioration of the garment, the Smithsonian conservators placed the suit in a climate-controlled case and took an extra measure of caution by placing it on a Neil Armstrong-sized, high-tech form. “A mannequin was created specifically for this suit using Armstrong’s actual measurements, and designed to allow air circulation from the case through the mannequin system and into the suit. This advanced circulation system allows unwanted vapors, caused by the breakdown of the rubber in the suit, to be pulled away from the suit over time and slow down degradation,” Smithsonian officials explain.

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The OG lunar spacesuit is back on display! 🙌 To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of #Apollo11, Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit is on display for the first time in 13 years! Before being readied for display, it underwent a multi-year conservation, thanks to the support of over 9,000 Kickstarter backers. As part of that process, a state-of-the display case and mannequin were designed to provide a stable environment for the suit’s display. The case replicates the conditions of our climate-controlled storage by controlling temperature, lighting, relative humidity, and ventilation. The mannequin allows air circulation through the mannequin system and will slow degradation by pulling unwanted vapors, caused by the breakdown of the rubber in the suit, away from the spacesuit. #Apollo50 #AirSpacePhoto

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The spacesuit will be on special display near the 1903 Wright Flyer until 2022 and then moved to a permanent exhibit within the museum.