Tourists on high-altitude balloon flights will get to wear special socks while enjoying the blackness of near-space, made of non-flammable materials to reduce the risk of sparking a fire on the balloon and thick enough to keep space fliers' feet warm.
Balloon company Zero 2 Infinity partnered with Spanish company Sock'M for the socks, which will be available for tourists when the balloon company eventually starts offering flights to the public. Sock'M will also offer a less flight-worthy set of the "Space Socks," made of cotton, on its website for people who didn't necessarily sign up for the balloon flights.
"Unlike commercial socks, space socks must be made from natural materials, preferably cotton, wool and flax/linen for moisture absorption, with some spandex for stretching," Sock'M representatives said in a statement. [Space Gifts 2017 - The Best Gift Ideas in the Universe]
"Synthetic fibers must be avoided to prevent electrostatic sparks," company representatives added. "Antimicrobial treatment or silver coating/ion treatment is preferable. The thickness of socks is crucial for 'space tourists,' as zero gravity causes blood to leave the feet and rush to the head, leaving the feet colder than on Earth."
While Zero 2 Infinity is not yet offering commercial flights, during a test last month, the company successfully deployed a small satellite launcher from a height of about 15 miles (25 kilometers). The company eventually plans to run helium balloon flights up to about 22 miles (36 km) in altitude for tourists to see the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth.
In the statement, Sock'M representatives cited SpaceX's plans to bring two tourists around the moon in 2018 as an example of space tourism coming soon. Another example is Virgin Galactic, which resumed high-atmosphere test flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft last year after a fatal crash in 2014.
The European Space Agency's "Couture in Orbit" fashion initiative last year showed that clothing made for space can be both practical and fashionable, Sock'M representatives said in the statement.
"Space tourism is closer than we think, and Sock'M is here to challenge the commonplace tendency of space being dominated by those with large budgets," Sock'M CEO Raúl Espada said in the statement.