Neil Armstong’s famous Apollo 11 spacesuit has made another giant leap for mankind. The suit that was worn by Armstrong when he became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969 found a new home on display at The Smithsonian this summer to commemorate the 50th anniversary. But, as Adam Savage found out in his latest installment of Adam Savage’s Tested, a lot more went into the ordeal than simply draping the suit off a mannequin.
To gain some insight on the pain-staking process, Savage spoke to Lisa Young, the National Air and Space Museum’s Objects Conservator, who detailed the years-long effort that went into readying the suit for its prestigious spot inside the museum.
Young said it was less about restoring the suit than it was to conserve the suit and try to “recreate that moment” of Armstrong first setting foot on the moon. “We’re not trying to make it look new,” she added.
For this recreation, of sorts, an entire poseable skeleton was built, based on Armstrong’s own measurements. This allowed them to reposition the suit as needed, then lock those poses into place. This was done, in part, to try and defy the traditionally staunch museum presentations, and try and humanize the exhibit as best they could.
As expected, dealing with a 50-year-old piece of American history is not without its problems. One being all the lunar dust, which is comprised of tiny, angular particles that attach themselves to fabric and don’t let go. Another issue was the pressurized rubber inside the suit, which was not only a mix of natural and synthetic rubbers that age poorly, and was initially designed to only last six months.
Still, some things were left alone, such as last-minute patchwork and inconsistent silk-screening to present the most historically accurate suit they could.
“My reluctance is to do the least amount possible to the spacesuit because, 20 years from now, people coming behind me, I don’t want people changing what you see,” said Young.
To find out more about what went into conserving Armstrong’s iconic suit, you can check out the full video of Adam Savage’s Tested here.