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We’ve been talking about it and seeing movies that hint at it for years — and now we may be one big step closer to jumping feet first into the uncharted world of space commerce. The International Space Station and Adidas are joining forces in a new deal that will have astronauts helping the athletic brand make sneakers — with the ISS crew doing some of the manufacturing in space.
Adidas announced a new overall long-term research partnership with the ISS U.S. National Laboratory this week, sparing little hype in boosting (ahem) the potential of the private-public deal. The idea, says Adidas, is to “leverage” astronauts’ access to low-orbit conditions in order to test and hopefully sell new technologies created in an environment that can’t be duplicated on Earth.
For its first project, the team is sending a supply of Adidas’ patented Boost pellets — the building blocks for the soft, springy cushioning in its high-end sneakers — aboard the ISS, where the crew will recreate the process the company uses to turn the pellets into midsoles. “The aim? To uncover the secrets of pellet movement during midsole mold filling thanks to microgravity conditions — something that scientists theorize could be used to optimize footwear performance and comfort,” Adidas explains.
Using a high-speed camera to capture the foamy process in microscopic detail, astronauts will inject the pellets into a midsole cavity, with “the motion of the pellets, their interactions, and their final orientation” observed and recorded for further study back here on the ground. “The molds will be preserved and returned to Earth for inspection so we can unlock the future of Boost and understand what it takes to create truly out-of-this-world running technology.”
The results of the experiment could go a long way toward helping Adidas decide how useful (and cost-efficient) it is to bring space into the logistical equation of making and selling shoes. “Boost in space is just the beginning of our work with the ISS National Lab,” the company pledges, calling the partnership “the big bang that marks the start of our modern-day space race to create a running shoe ahead of its time.” Hey, it also could give future customers a genuinely insteresting answer the next time a street troll runs up shouting "What are those?!"
Via C|net, the experiment is slated to take place sometime next year. Who knows? Someday this could end up lending a whole new meaning to the idea of a moonwalk. And if it all goes well, maybe Adidas can start laying claim to the mother of all space commerce (can we already start calling it s-commerce?) pitches: Take a space walk … with the shoe that’s literally out of this world!