What happened to the boots that left their footprints on the Moon?

A human's first steps are an accomplishment

What happened to the boots that left their footprints on the Moon?

A human's first steps are an accomplishment. Relying on unknown ground, they augur the advent of a new era. From the first step of a child to that of the conquistador on a new continent, the symbolic base prevails over the physical base, whose hospitality we quickly forget. It is enough to change a few gravity parameters to greatly complicate this initially so elementary step.

We don't walk on the Moon like we walk on the Earth. If the assertion is obviously banal, the resulting requirements have mobilized engineers, industrial designers and industries for years to design what is not even necessary for our movement on Earth: shoes. Particularly, the shoe covers that protected the already shod feet of Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin during their first steps on the Moon on July 21, 1969.

On June 2, 1966, the Surveyor I probe landed on the Moon and confirmed that the surface would not swallow astronauts. However, the surface temperature oscillates between -129°C and 150°C depending on its exposure to the sun, a fact taken seriously into account when choosing landing sites, always carefully selected to coincide with lunar dawn and ensure walkers a ground neither too hot nor too cold. On Earth, it was now a matter of finding, combining or inventing materials capable of preventing astronauts from making any missteps.

Kenny Dennis, model maker at ILC Industries, designed the first prototype of the moon boot using a plaster mold, like the lost wax casting of an artistic bronze. Once the sole has been defined, it is the covering of the boot that occupies the engineers, who must take into account the tragic episode of Apollo I. The teams finally arrive at a model made up of several layers of high-tech fabrics.

From the outer shell to the sole, the silicone of which is supplied by General Electric, the gaiter alternates between flame-retardant beta fabric composed of silica fibers and coated with Teflon (thermoplastic and thermostable polymer), aluminized Mylar (extremely effective thermal insulation), Nomex (combustion resistant fiber), Dacron (high tenacity polyester) and a fabric made of Chromel-R (composed of chromium and nickel, very resistant to abrasion and developed by Litton Industries).