Saving America’s treasures: Threatened artifacts from the Apollo Era

Lisa Young


In January 2000, the National Air and Space Museum’s Space History Division began an undertaking to save threatened artifacts from the Apollo Space program. This project is being funded through support from the Save America’s Treasures grant program and Hamilton Sundstrand. The primary goals of this interdisciplinary project are to preserve the Apollo era spacesuits in the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) collection and to share the results of our research on the deterioration and preservation of spacesuits with other museums.

Phase I: Each spacesuit in the collection of NASM was thoroughly documented and examined. Non-destructive analysis was performed in order to establish a condition baseline and permit monitoring of future changes. CT scans of the suits were undertaken so that the 3-d morphology of the interior layers could be examined and recorded. Conservation professionals and experts in the field performed analysis of specific materials and their degradation products.

Phase II: A materials advisory group was organized and maintained to assist and advise the project team on issues related to the deterioration and preservation of spacesuit materials. Apollo spacesuits are composed of 20 to 24 layers of modern materials including Dacron, Mylar, nylon, Teflon-coated fiberglass textiles, polyvinyl chloride, natural and synthetic rubbers, plastics and metals. Extensive consultation with these individuals was deemed necessary due to the scarcity of reliable, published information on this subject.

Phase III: A storage and handling system has been designed and implemented for use with the spacesuit collection at NASM. Environmental parameters have been established for the storage of these modern materials based on research undertaken during the project.

Phase IV: Guidelines and standards of practice have been produced summarizing information and research assembled during the project. These guidelines form a blueprint for further research, and serve as the most up-to-date guidelines for the preservation, storage, and display of spacesuits.

2002 | Miami | Volume 9