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Neil Armstrong’s historic spacesuit is falling apart

It conquered the moon but isn't doing so well against plastic breakdown.

armstong-spacesuit
Portrait of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing mission in his spacesuit.
NASA

The spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore on his mission to the moon is disintegrating and it's not the only valuable object doing so, the New York Times reported Tuesday.  

Twelve years ago, the suit's custodians at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. took it off display and managed to slow the degradation process a little, the publication reports.

The suit is made of 21 layers of different plastic materials (including nylon and Teflon). One of them, neoprene, is the biggest culprit of the suit's degradation, according to NYT. Neoprene hardens and becomes brittle over time -- old wet suits, for example, are made of the same.

Compared to other materials like metal, stone, ceramic and paper, plastics are less durable, and spacesuits aren't the only things succumbing to brittleness. Claes Oldernburg's art piece at the Harvard Art Museums in Massachusetts, "False Food Selection", featuring plastic models of a banana and oatmeal, now looks like it's rotting, according to NYT.

The Smithsonian has not yet responded to a request for comment about what else its conservators are doing to help keep Armstrong's historic suit from breaking down.