Flying cars and jetpacks. Weren’t we all supposed to have those by now?

You know, along with the silver jump suits... that’s what they always told us in those science fiction movies and stories all those years ago. The world of tomorrow always looked so exciting. And yet, here we are in 2010 and no one seems to be flying to work in hover-cars or have a personal jetpack, although I think everyone was a little relieved that those expected silver jumpsuits didn’t become standard issue.

(images via 1, 2, Popular Science, TM Russia 1970)

The jetpack, the rocket belt or rocket pack are names given to a number of different devices worn on the back that use jets of escaping gas to allow a single person to fly. Such technology has been featured in movies, TV, novels, short stories and comic books for a very long time....

(top right image: art by Jeff deBoer)

However, despite advances in technology, jetpacks have not turned out, so far at least, to be very practical as a mode of personal transportation. Different types of jetpacks have been used on space missions, but the earth’s atmosphere and gravity, as well as limitations of the human body, have thus far hindered the use of jetpacks by the military or by the general public. Nazi's Himmelsturmer / Skystormer After conducting extensive research for an article about German Wonder Weapons earlier in 2009, I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that jetpacks were yet another one of the technologies explored by the Germans during World War Two.

but here are a couple of images of what it might have looked like: . enabling him. which translates as Skystormer. which were strapped to the chest and back of the pilot.The Himmelsturmer. The device employed two low-power rockets. It was hoped it would allow engineering units to leap across rivers or minefields and was not designed for regular troops. was the result of experiments in the latter days of the war. to fly 180 feet in the air. in theory at least. No images of the Himmelsturmer appear to have survived.



when Harold Graham reached a dizzying height of eighteen inches. b jetpack research took off.. 2. Graham demonstrated the belt at the Pentagon and then for President Kennedy at Fort Bragg. Moore began working for Bell on hich jetpack us hydr ogen peroxide powered rockets. top right: early Moore Rocket Belt test)Flights. w for a few s econds lifted a man into the air. A device called the Jumpbelt was demonstrated in 1958. . The fi rst real rock et belt flight took place in April 1961. so to speak. soon afterwa s. North Carolina. but flew for 133 feet in just 13 seconds.A dizzying height of eighteen inches. the Himmelsturmer ended up in the hands of the US military after 19 5. it's a startThe U. Later that year. or rather jumps. but only had a marginally longer f ing ight time than the early tests. Wendell F. so it was very simple to operate and there don’t appear to have been any injuries during tests. Like a lot of other German technology. since nobody wanted to take a risk with such an unknown and potentially un redictable contraption.. so there was no re l descent time. The device shut down once the throttle was disengaged. were measured in seconds. Bell Aerosystems did a few tests using a secure tether. Army began researching rocket pack technology in 1949 and by 1952 successfully tested a rocket pack.images via 1. The Himmelsturmer disappeared into history. In 1953.S.



Mostly though the fact that someone couldn’t stay aloft for very long stopped the rocket belt from ever being put into production. reaching speeds up to ten mph. faster flights.. but still too loud to be practical In the early sixties. the US army contracted Bell Aerosystems to build a rocket pack. . Powered by hydrogen peroxide. but the military had been considering it for surveillance work and it was simply too loud to be practical. was scrapped because the army considered it too big and heavy. but a jet powered model.(images via 1. Bell improved the duration of flights. Bell’s more substantial jet belt device developed in the later sixties had a flight time of around twenty minutes. Over the following years. which had been tested with longer flight times.. it was commonly known as the Bell Rocket Belt or man-rocket. 2) Longer.

Jet Flying Belt 1969) "The Bell gang liked to attach rockets to almost anything — even this everyday office chair" (source): .(images via .

The Rocketman franchise currently uses a rocket belt based on the Bell Aerosystems model. At the opening of the summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. as well as for scenes using stuntmen in movies and TV shows. sports stadiums.000 spectators in the stadium and around 2. there was no further serious work done on jet pack technology and the devices have been used mostly for short demonstrations at entertainment venues. monster truck shows and so on. Michael Jackson also used a stunt double to zoom off in a jetpack at the end of his concerts during the nineties.(images via) To read about the first rocket belt pilots.5 billion television viewers around the world witnessed a rocket pack flight. . After that. 100. giving demonstrations around the world. visit this website.

The MMU is a propulsion backpack. The satellites were captured. which was operated by US astronauts on three shuttle missions in 1984. The unit allowed the crew to take part in spacewalks without a tether away from the shuttle and was used at the time to retrieve two communications satellites. The MMU wasn’t used after the third mission but has been succeeded by a smaller device known as the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue or SAFER. Also using gaseous nitrogen. first flown in 1994. utilizing gaseous nitrogen as a propellant. put in the payload bay for stowage and returned to Earth. but deserves a mention here.(images via) Nasa’s Manned Maneuvering Unit isn’t strictly a jetpack. it is a simplified version of the MMU and intended for emergency use only: . which were malfunctioning.

The SPK was still attached to the exterior of the space station when Mir was destroyed on reentry after it was decommissioned in 2001. . used oxygen instead of nitrogen and was attached to a tether for safety. It was bigger than the American model.(image via) The Soviet space program had a similar device known as the SPK. occasionally used by cosmonauts on flights to the Mir space station.

(left: NASA's Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue. which was based on the Bell Aerospace Rocket Belt. Rocketman. This type of jetpack also featured in the TV series Lost in Space: . Buck Rogers.. movies. comics and other areas of popular culture for decades. James Bond flew a jetpack.. Boba Fett. right: Russian SPK device) Jet packs have been featured in books. magazines. TV. Adam Strange. In the movie Thunderball in 1965.

000.000 Jet Pack International of California has updated some of the early rocket belt designs with modern materials and fuels. . Currently. The company offers regular public demonstrations. increasing flight times to over thirty seconds. but also sells some jetpacks and rocket belts. The flight time is nine minutes and the device sells for $200. Thunderbolt Aerosystems also from California has plans to develop a jet pack with a flight time in excess of thirty minutes.000. Cost: $200. their hydrogenperoxide/kerosene blend rocket pack flies for around seventy five seconds and costs over $90. The T-73 model runs on regular jet fuel and is a true jet pack.Flight time: 9 minutes.

and pretty efficient . right image is Monocopter by Andreas Petzoldt) Not really a jet pack. more info . but probably the most promising of new developments .and the one that is already produced commercially: New Zealand's Martin Jetpack is big. bold.(images via) (left image credit: William S.

Maybe one day we’ll all have a personal jetpack after all? The Backyard Rocketeer From his backyard in Morelos. .each of them powered by his home-brewed ultra-pure hydrogen peroxide jet fuel.While the vast majority of us may never have the financial resources to own one of these. Mexico. He's like a one-man turn-of-the-century flying machine montage. it’s incredible to think that such devices are being seriously developed and flight times are definitely increasing. from rocket belts to bikes to carts to the most ludicrous personal helicopter we've seen this side of Inspector Gadget . Watch a very entertaining and informative interview with this man here. Juan Manuel Lozano has engineered and test-flown a staple of rocket-powered conveyances.

Da Capo Press 2008. Mac Montandon’s book investigates how such a cool idea straight from science fiction became reality. . by Mac Montandon.(image via) Here is a great video about the history of rocket belts: Link The greatest invention that never was? A lot of the material in this article is also covered in much greater detail and with a personal touch in "Jetpack Dreams: One Man’s Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was". never making it into the mainstream. but then simply ran out of gas.

but the reality of zooming through the air like a superhero continues to be elusive. for now at least. or at least the greatest one that never seemed to prove to have a practical application. While Montandon ultimately found that rather depressing. You can check out Montandon’s website at www. for Libertine-Libertine) Jetpacks for everyone were supposed to be an integral part of a glorious future. such as the cell phone. that it isn’ We learn just why the jetpack has not become an established mode of personal transportation and the book is very well written by someone who longs for the personal. internet. engrossing and often amusing look at the greatest invention that never was. yet has to reluctantly accept. he hasn’t given up on his dream. (image credit: Sacha Maric & Tom Gottelier. cars and so on.jetpackdreams. television. affordable and practical jetpack to be real. . The technology remains expensive to develop. the fuel difficult to obtain and flight times too short to make the device practical for everyday use.Montandon’s personal journey is a fascinating.

Your own personal sky The idea of a personal flying vehicle was bouncing around for long time. until the Military took it in their capable hands. coming up with a significant number of prototypes: (image via) .

Four small air bags served as a landing gear. The Army was favorably impressed by the VZ-1's performance and ordered a couple evolutionary prototypes built. .FLYING PLATFORMS & FLYING JEEPS De Lackner DH-4 "Aerocycle" flying platform was the first of several one-man flying machines the Army evaluated during the late 1950s and early 1960s. though this system was ultimately abandoned in favor of helicopter-type metal skids: Hiller VZ-1 "Pawnee" (1955) The craft was intended to explore both the practicality of the ducted fan as a propulsion unit and the potential military value of the flying platform as a reconnaissance and transport vehicle. It had a top speed of 120 km/h and was surprisingly stable despite its rather ungainly appearance.


" Chrysler was one of the companies to take up the project: .Chrysler VZ-6 (1959) In 1957 Pentagon asked plane and car manufacturers to submit bids for a "flying Jeep.

A few other "air-jeep" concepts from this time: Piasecki 59 / VZ-8P .

Curtiss-Wright VZ-7: .

Here is the Flying Platform VAK-191 test: .



and got inspired in a certain direction? Lighter fare takes off better: .The most unusual was perhaps "Convair Model 49 " from 1967 (maybe young George Lucas saw it.

Keeping it simple keeps it in the air .

there are currently two models competing for attention of the market: both are about as bare-bones as a flying machine can get: an engine to spin two sets of rotor blades. Air Scooter II: Gen H-4: . $50. and a chair hanging underneath.000 is all it takes to cast off your Earth-chains.According to Popular Mechanics.

If not a helicopter. perhaps? - . then a Personal Blimp.




The Gryphon enables parachutists to fly through the air at a high speed before opening their chutes. other than a gas handle.But wait! Recently there were some good advances in the "Personal Wings" category GRYPHO "Gryphon" is not exactly personal flight vehicle. someone who got tired of waiting for big corporations to come up with R&D and justification for personal flight Yves Ross y from Switzerland developed wings which allow him to fly . but rather an empowered parachute.. It's been designed by ESG (Elektroniksystem-und -Logistik-GmbH).spectacularly! (mainly because of 4 attached model-engines) Wit these. Yves's body becomes the likes of a bird and. "During the flight." . 2. he can fly at over 200km/hr and conquer mountain summits. These body movements are equal to those that birds us to fly. Yves does not ride his wings but truly flies them using various light body movements that he has learned to handle with perfection.. JET MA And finally. so they could b dropped miles away and fly to their intended targets Read more about it here: 1.


ee.Sources: DamnInteresting. AviaRussian. Jet-Man . BusinessWeek.

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