As crazy as it might sound, a lot of modern inventions have been inspired by science fiction. The jetpack is one such invention! The jetpack was first described and theorized by H.G Wells in his comic book “Amazing Stories” way back during the 1920s. Ever since then, this idea has been made possible, practical even. Now, jetpacks aren’t only found in illustrations and comic books, but rather, real-life itself. After almost a century of designing, now, should you have a couple of thousand dollars to shell off, you can buy yourself a personal jet pack. We owe this fundamental idea to the writers and illustrators of “Jetpack Dreams”.
1945: Flying Nazis
Having been inspired by the comics of HW. Wells the Nazis are widely credited for taking the first steps towards a successful working jetpack during WWII. This jetpack consisted of two wearable pulse tubes. This helped troops to make short jumps of about 200 feet over minefields, waterways, barbed wire, trenches, etc. This was all achieved through a complex combination of pressurized oxygen with other fossil fuel sources.
Many think this was a successful design, but it was anything but that! This monstrosity weighed over 120 kilograms. This might be what H.G. envisioned, but it definitely wasn’t practical. The jet engines were very hard and often crushed the soldier’s torso. Moreover, more often than not it resulted in soldiers hurling into the ground at 32 feet per second! This contraption killed more soldiers than it saved!
This development led to the first practical jetpack design. By controlling the jetpack’s thrust and movement with a handgrip; this lighter and safer jetpack could help you fly miles into the air. This early prototype of a jetpack had the concept and physics down, however, the technology back then did not support the idea. As a matter of fact, to date, it might be hard to get your hand on the powerful machinery this prototype calls for.
This development may not have resulted in an actual jetpack or deliverable, but, it was undeniably a revolutionary physics breakthrough. To think that with the right technology one could fly without getting hurt was truly revolutionary. One could say, this idea was truly ahead of its time.
The 1958 Flying Belt Development
1961: First Practical Jetpack Flight
Harold Graham was the first to demonstrate a working, practical and, yet, safe jetpack. His original design helped him fly as high as 15ft and as far as 150 feet. However, the design has obvious flaws. The jetpack made a deafening sound; it was louder than a modern-day airplane taking off. Moreover, it was inefficient in its fuel consumption and could last only 30-40 seconds in the air. This design was later “perfected”. In the end, surprisingly, with the primitive technology of 1961, a jet pack could travel at over 60mph and over 60 feet in height. However, it is important to note that the flight time got shorter; 21 seconds to be precise. Apart from inefficient fuel usage, this design was perfect. In fact, the stereotypical jetpack design used to date follows Moore’s Bell Rocket Belt design.