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The Joy of Shoes
SEPTEMBER 2006
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Space Boot
ILC Dover prototype, stainless steel, Spectra, aluminum, polyester, 2003

Space Boot
Photograph by Mitchell Feinberg
By Cathy Newman

At $30,000 a pair, moon boots make Manolos seem like cheap skates. Manolos wouldn't hack it in space. Moon walking demands the highest of high-tech shoes—like those designed by Dave Graziosi's team at ILC Dover, a manufacturer of space suits for NASA in Frederica, Delaware.

"We're planning for the moon and beyond," says Graziosi, an aerospace engineer. "Next stop: Mars." The latest in space footwear, the M2 Trekker, is constructed in three parts—an inner pressure bladder, a middle structural layer, and a protective cover.

The shoe will need to tolerate temperatures from minus 350˚F (minus 212˚C) to plus 350˚F (177˚C), resist micrometeoroids (at 45,000 miles an hour [72,000 kilometers an hour], even dust is destructive), hold up on the rocky surface of the moon, yet comfortably allow the wearer to hike back should the lunar rover conk out miles away from the landing module. The boot is slimmer and lighter than the last generation shoe worn by Apollo astronauts.

To be precise, the first man on the moon is myth—it was the first shoe on the moon. Those shoes—Neil Armstrong's boots (size 9 1⁄2 medium)—are still on the moon, along with nine other pairs of boots worn during the Apollo missions. When the Apollo astronauts collected moon rocks, they had to jettison their boots to compensate for the additional weight they brought back. Three decades on the moon have taken a toll. The metal buckles and snaps on the boots would be fine. No oxygen on the moon, so no oxidation and rust. But the silicone soles and synthetic fabrics have probably off-gassed and degraded. Should anyone try to retrieve them, there's a good chance the shoes would turn to powder if touched.

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