Rocket Belts'
Slow Liftoff


Illuminant by
Robert Wilfred Franson


August 2008


Skylark of Space, Amazing Aug 1928 - Frank R. PaulRocket belts, or any variety of jet pack that a person can wear or strap on, continue their slow liftoff into airy practicality.

Of course the physical liftoff into air has to be quite slow, because the belt operator is not a pilot in a shielded rocketcraft. In space, or above an airless surface like Luna's, one could move faster; although with additional sorts of risk.

A fascinating evolution of vehicles can be traced in online exhibits at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In the Cold War section is an illustrated page on rocket belts, including some science fiction illustrations. As the Transportation Corps says of the primacy of transport and logistics: Nothing happens until something moves.

Larry Greenemeier has a couple of articles in Scientific American, on the history:
The Trouble with Rocket Packs: They're crowd-pleasers, but they'll never live up to the expectation Buck Rogers set in the 1920s;

— and on the prospects:
Will the Personal Jet Pack Ever Get off the Ground? Despite decades of interest in human flight powered by backpack jets, the technology's limitations have kept it grounded, but this could soon change.

My uncle Donald L. Franson discusses a famous flying belt in Amazing Stories, 1926-1995: An Obituary, with an Aside on Buck Rogers.

I develop this line a little further in a review of David Kyle's Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams.

The rocket belt is a device that science fiction has been more or less impatiently anticipating for a long time. I'm glad the liftoff continues.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

Thanks to BH.

Amazing August 1928 cover
by Frank R. Paul

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