Monday, April 30, 2007

Fascinating Invention No. 11 - The Jet Pack

I am fantastically excited by the jet-pack! The idea started in the 1920s with a comic strip hero called Buck Rogers but his jet pack was more of a jet belt so he could jump about a bit and wave in an exciting way. By the time you get to James Bond and 'Thunderball' jet packs were worn on the back and involved a suit and tie. They used jets of gas to make the hero swoosh about.

Real jet packs were also really thought about during the second world war. The Germans eveloped the Himmelsturmer (Skystormer) This was so German soldiers could cross minefields, barbed wire and raging rivers. It was probably a great deal more interesting than going round things or using a bridge.
The American army got very excited about the whole thing and in 1969 Bell Aerosystems developed the actual jump belt. A pilot called Robert Courter flew about 100 metres in a circle as high as 7 metres at 45 miles per hour which is excellent but also a bit useless. The jet pack was a good idea but too mad and too difficult to spend a load of money on.

Problems with the jet pack:

-flight time is very short
-it is quite dangerous to actually strap jet propellant near to your body
-if the jet propellant did something nasty like explode the hero pilot would not be high enough to use a parachute and would land on the ground very fast, resulting in strawberry jam
-very difficult to fly anywhere other than up, maybe firefighters could use them for high tech cat rescuing.

So, apart from rescuing cats, you can use the jet pack like they do at Rocket Man, where you can hire somebody to leap in the air to make people buy stuff. The other place to really use it is in space. In space less thrust is needed because there is no gravity. NASA has emergency rocket packs which mean that if an astronaut falls out of his module or some evil space villain throws him out or maybe he has to carefully manouvre himself about in space in order to foil a plot to blow up the earth, then he can use his rocket pack or Manned Maneuvering Unit.

This is all very well but of course, the only true rocket man is Buzz Aldrin


Richard said...

You know, I'd never really thought about the strawberry-jamification that could occur with jet packs.

I feel sorry for the poor old German soldier who used one of these to get over a minefield: what would happen if the fuel ran out and he was only half way across? Strawberry jam whichever way you look at it.

Jude said...

Jet packs- fantastic. I'd love to have a go in a safe and well padded room of course. No risk of injury that way. Are you a science fiction fan Wilf?

Candy said...

what about the jet pack tom cruise wore in minority report?

Wilf said...

I never thought about running out of fuel, Richard - nasty.

Wilf said...

I think I like science fiction, Jude. One of my favourite films is '2001- a Space Odyssey' and of course there is Dr Who. What do you like?

Wilf said...

I have not seen, 'Minority Report' - sounds like something I might not be allowed to watch or something I might get at the end of term.

Jude said...

I'm not a huge sci fi fan, although I like some. But I know my nephews love it- Star Wars,Dr Who... and most members of the male species I have known have liked sci fi too. Must appeal to some male and in some cases female hormone. Mmmm not sure you know what hormones are...