"Like all materials, they eventually degrade, and plastics and rubbers do a little faster than other materials," Collum said.
Specifically, harmful vapors building up in the suit caused the deterioration. This meant that displaying the suit was as critical a part of the restoration process as anything else.
The team devised a special mannequin with a fresh-air delivery system that limits the harmful vapors, preserving the suit while it is on display.
Preserving and not restoring the suit also allows it to tell its own story about the journey from Earth to the moon and back again. As NPR notes in its report, the suit is still stained with dust from lunar surface. It's just a small reminder of exactly how far the rubber industry has gone.
It's also a reminder of how far we plan to go.
Humanity still is doing its best to shake the bonds of gravity and the rubber industry is part of those efforts to take exploration to new worlds.
Today, researchers at NASA's facility in Langley, Va., are turning to silicone for answers.
In May, NASA shared some details about a soft robotics project that interns Chuck Sullivan and Jack Fitzpatrick had undertaken.