'Space Tourists' Will Wear Special Socks on High-Altitude Balloon Flights

Space tourist socks
Special new socks will cradle the feet of tourists on high-altitude balloon flights. (Image credit: Sock'M)

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. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace