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Millenium of Flight Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland
July 4, 2000

Visit and exhibition followed collaboration by museums
©Scotsman Publications Ltd.
Reproduced by permission of - the website of The Scotsman newspaper
Edinburgh, Scotland
Originally published July 2000

THE Royal Museum of Scotland exhibition of space memorabilia and the visit of the astronaut, John Young, came about as a result of a unique collaboration between museum chiefs in Washington DC and Edinburgh, writes Frank O’Donnell.

The National Air and Space Museum began a "Save America’s Treasure" project to preserve artefacts from the Apollo era after fears that the suits worn by the world’s most famous astronauts were crumbling to dust.

Although the 21-layer spacesuits were designed to protect astronauts from extreme temperatures and cosmic rays they are now deteriorating unpredictably.

As a result, NASA called in a number of the world’s experts including Anita Quye, 34, an analytical research chemist at the National Museums of Scotland.

Ms Quye, a graduate of Strathclyde University, was contacted after her pioneering work on the deterioration of plastics, which have affected museum artefacts and everyday objects such as Star Wars figures.

Ms Quye, the founder of the Historical Plastics Research Scientists Group, has been sent parts of spacesuits from the Gemini missions of the mid-1960s and the Apollo missions of 1968-72.

Included is a glove from the Gemini missions which has a finger light which allowed astronauts to read spacecraft controls in the dark. They cost $12,000 a pair more than 30 years ago.

She said: "They realised their collections were not in as good as condition as they expected. People assumed they would last but without protective measures they will literally fall apart."

About 200 space suits held at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the world’s most popular museum, are at risk. They include suits worn by astronauts John Young, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, which are part of the most extensive collection of space artefacts anywhere in the world.

Ms Quye said it was unlikely the process could be reversed but it could be slowed down.

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