Last week, the Smithsonian Institute announced an ambitious goal: The crowdfunding of half a million dollars in order to preserve, restore and digitize Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. The Smithsonian’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign began last Monday, and it only took five days to reach its $500,000 goal. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Smithsonian is aiming even higher: $200,000 more in order to preserve Alan Shepard’s Mercury spacesuit.
“For our next goal, we are headed from $500,000 to $700,000 to tell the story of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. We plan to conserve, digitize, and display the Mercury suit Shepard wore during the first American manned space flight in 1961. Along with Armstrong’s suit, Shepard’s — and many other suits planned for display in the new gallery – will show the progression of spacesuit technology during the space race era,” The Smithsonian wrote in an update on the Kickstarter page.
If successful, Shepard’s spacesuit will join Armstrong’s and many others in the National Air and Space Museum’s Destination Moon exhibit, set to open in 2020. As for the preservation of Armstrong’s suit, the Smithsonian hopes to have it restored, digitized and on display in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019.
Destination Moon will highlight a tumultuous time in U.S. history, when the pressures of the Cold War made the space race a much higher-stakes affair than it probably should be. Following the successful launch of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite launched into space by the Soviet Union, the U.S. scrambled for a way to top the achievement. One project, known as A119, actually contemplated detonating a nuclear weapon on the moon as a show of force. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the U.S. went on to explore other, less radioactive means of winning the space race.
At just over $544,000 at the time of publication, the Smithsonian Kickstarter has received an astounding amount of support. Eight people have pledged $10,000 dollars or more, while an astonishing 25 people have pledged $2,500 or more. The campaign has 22 days left to reach its goal of $700,000