When Neil Armstrong walked the moon on July 20, 1969, the footprint of his boot symbolized an enormous historical feat—and, at least as GE sees it, marked a crowning achievement in the history of materials.
The boots worn by Armstrong and his fellow astronauts were made from GE silicon rubber designed for extreme weather and conditions. The company’s scientists also developed the industrial-strength plastic in the visors of the space helmets. NASA may no longer fly its own missions, but that hasn’t stopped GE from reinventing the moon boot for the 21st century—this time as a sneaker made from “super materials” typically used in jet engines and wind turbines.
In homage to the 45th anniversary of the first moonwalk, 100 limited-edition Missions sneakers, which look more like sci-fi high tops than space-age Uggs, will go on sale this Sunday. “We are not only celebrating a great moment in history,” says Sam Olstein, GE’s global director of innovation, “but helping people relate to the power of advanced material technology.”
Stabilized carbon fiber was placed on the side of the shoe because it is lighter than steel and aluminum alloy yet can withstand the challenging conditions of a jet engine’s belly. Thermoplastic rubber, on the top collar of the sneaker, is more resistant and flexible than the standard variety. To prevent water damage, the shoe is covered in a hydrophobic coating that is more commonly used to prevent ice from adhering to machines. Finally, 3M Scotchlite reflective material around the laces’ eye rows increase visibility.
The Missions were designed with Android Homme, a luxury footwear company in Los Angeles, and will be available through the menswear retail site Jack Threads for $196.90. The closest the new shoes will come to being tested for space travel will come later today, Wednesday, July 16, when Buzz Aldrin takes over GE’s SnapChat to launch the shoes. “He may have the expert opinion,” Olstein says, “on how these moon boots compare to the originals.”