For many years, Armstrong’s spacesuit was displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2006, scientists realized it was starting to show signs of age. The fabric was stained. The colors were fading. The metal pieces on the front were falling apart.
“The suit was made to last only long enough to get an astronaut to the moon and back,” says Lisa Young. She is a conservator responsible for taking care of Armstrong’s spacesuit.
To fix his suit, Young needed to understand how it was made all those years ago. The suit is made up of 24 different materials. The outer layer is “Beta cloth,” a strong material that doesn’t rip. Under the Beta cloth are layers of material that protect against the moon’s temperature swings and block dangerous radiation from the sun.
The final layer is an inner bladder made of rubber. Normally the weight of Earth’s atmosphere puts pressure on the body. On the moon, the bladder would do that job. It squeezed Armstrong’s body to create pressure. Over the years, exposure to light, oxygen, and temperature changes on Earth made the bladder crack and change shape, says Young.