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Smithsonian adopts crowdfunding to save Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit

The world famous Smithsonian Institution has launched its first crowdfunding campaign in the hope that science fans will help preserve an iconic piece of space memorabilia.

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit has seen some wear and tear over the decades, however, for the moonwalk's 50th anniversary, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum wants to display the suit in all its glory.

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Neil Armstrong
NASA/Getty Images & Mark Avino/National Air and Space Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Neil Armstrong

Hoping to raise $500,000 on Kickstarter, the institution is looking for donations so they can preserve the suit, digitize it with 3D scanning and display it for visitors during the 50th anniversary in 2019.

The museum revealed that suits currently on display are replicas, with the real spacesuit being kept in climate-controlled storage to prevent deterioration. After the 50th anniversary, it will be permanently displayed in their future "Destination Moon" gallery, set to open in 2020.

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Taking this giant digital leap, the museum took this project to the web, as the suit is not covered by their federal appropriated funds.

The crowdfunding project launched on Monday, coinciding with the 46th anniversary of the moon landing; and has already been an out of this world success, generating over $173,000 by 1.30 p.m. London time, Tuesday.

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The decision to embrace crowdfunding marks a departure for the Smithsonian, which normally relies on federal funds and voluntary donations.

Alison Mitchell, public affairs specialist at National Air and Space Museum, told CNBC that this campaign was the first of many for the museum, who has now entered a multi-project partnership with Kickstarter.

"Funds for Neil Armstrong's spacesuit is the first of many. We thought this artifact, given that it is one of the most iconic in the collection, was a choice to start with."

"The Smithsonian has always needed private funding for projects like this and Kickstarter gives us a new way to do that. Through these campaigns, the public will have a chance to be involved in the entire process – from fundraising to completion – regardless of their level of support."

As the Smithsonian enters this digital donating stage, other museums may be inspired to integrate this system more rigorously. In a England- focused "Digital Culture 2014" report, one of the most popular trends predicted to grow for art institutions in 2015 was crowd-funding and online donations.

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