JetPacks: Only 11 Men have flown it... Oct 10, 2006 3:43:03 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Oct 10, 2006 3:43:03 GMT -6
To date, only 11 men in history have free-flown a rocketbelt. More men have walked on the moon.
On April 20, 1961, Harold Graham made history by being the first person to achieve liftoff using a rocketbelt—a rocket-powered "jet pack" that straps on the flyer's back. Last week at the Niagara Aerospace Museum, Graham, now 72, arrived at the world's first rocketbelt convention clad in his original black-rubber flight suit and helmet, the one he wore 45 years ago. His rocketbelt itself was a plastic mock-up—the real ones tip the scales at around 130 pounds—but his enthusiasm could not have been clearer.
Flying with a rocketbelt is extremely dangerous. The would-be aviator must strap a contraption onto his back that includes two large tanks filled with highly combustible fuel, concentrated "rocket-grade" hydrogen peroxide. The flier turns a motorcyclelike hand throttle that opens a valve and releases nitrogen into the two tanks, which causes the fuel to expand to 5,000 times its size. The fuel is then forced through a catalyst pack and converted to steam that can reach 1,300 degrees, providing enough power to thrust itself and the person wearing it into the air.
That's when things get really tricky. Once in flight, there are eight points of control for the flier to master (up-and-down, and also up-and-back and up-and-forward, and so forth). He does so using both a control bar and jetavators (movable nozzles that regulate precision movements from side to side). Every movement the flyer makes is an act of precision. And he also has to contend with deafening noise 3 feet from his ears and support the weight of a welterweight boxer.
I would like a jetpack for Christmas...