WASHINGTON: The Smithsonian's first shot at online crowdfunding ended Wednesday after raising a hefty $719,779 to restore the spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the moon.
A total of 9,477 people contributed to the month-long Kickstarter "Reboot the Suit" campaign, which surpassed its $500,000 goal on July 24.
"It is mind-blowing," Yoonhyung Lee, the Smithsonian's director of digital philanthropy, told AFP in an interview at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington.
"We did not really expect to both hit our goal so quickly and also to exceed our goal so dramatically. This was a huge triumph for us."
It was the first time the Smithsonian has turned to crowdfunding to help cover the cost of preserving its most valuable artifacts from the ravages of time.
The campaign lifted off on July 20, the 46th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing. Its conclusion coincided with National Aviation Day.
With cash in hand, the Smithsonian is now aiming to have Armstrong's white spacesuit and helmet ready for public viewing by the 50th anniversary in 2019.
"The suit is pretty fragile," Lisa Young, the Smithsonian curator tasked with overseeing its three-year restoration project, told AFP.
"It's reaching about its 50-year lifespan right now. A lot of its materials were made for temporary use -- to get to the moon and back," she said.
"We see the rubber getting a little bit brittle. The interior portions that the public doesn't see are what's really the most fragile."
Layers of polymers were used to create the suit, but back in the 1960s scientists had no clear idea how long they would last, Young explained.
"Natural materials tend to last longer," she said.