SI Vault
June 16, 1958
Across the River and over the Trees
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 16, 1958

Events & Discoveries

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Across the River and over the Trees

Just 25 years after Buck Rogers first-streaked across the country's comic pages propelled by his personal rocket belt, the thing has actually been invented by three young scientists in Denville, N.J. They call it a Jump Belt, which sounds as handy as an automatic clutch; but you don't just run one through the loops in your trousers. You attach it to your body with "straps and belts and things," according to Alexander H. Bohr and Harry Burdett Jr., two of its inventors, who are vague about details because they haven't got them all patented yet. Then you blast off, and the thrust of the rocket on your back counteracts gravity so that you are virtually weightless. You can leap a river, spring lightly up a mountain or run like the wind. Pushed along by his rocket, one man was clocked at a speed which would have given him an under-two-minute mile if he hadn't run out of fuel.

Burdett and Bohr are members, naturally, of the American Rocket Society and are employed by the Reaction Motors Division of the Thiokol Chemical Corp., on whose New Jersey testing grounds the Jump Belt was developed. Their work was called Project Grasshopper.

"We have both tried the belt ourselves," says Bohr, "and the interesting thing is that anybody can use it the first time out. You get a sensation of being lifted, something like you get in a high-speed elevator, and suddenly your leg muscles have an extraordinary power to move you about.

"How long does it last? Well, let's say that at present it has a rather limited range. But the fuel burns out gradually, so that if you happen to be in mid-air, the rocket lets you gently down to earth. And it is easy to recharge."

Can the Jump Belt be used in sports? "Not in team sports like football," says Burdett. "The blast from your rocket won't hurt you, but a group of people in rocket belts would have to be careful not to blast each other. The belt ought to work for skin-divers, though—the fuel burns in water as well as in air. Maybe the water skiers could use it too, and not have to be towed by a boat."

"It will also work in outer space," said Bohr.

The armed forces have shown interest in Jump Belts, which Bohr and Burdett say can be produced at "reasonable cost." They admit, though, that so far only the government is likely to find the cost reasonable. For people who just want to get from tee to green in a few giant steps, or spring to the roof to adjust the TV antenna, or soar over the rush-hour crowd, the price of weightlessness as yet would be rather high.

Winning Pitcher: O'Malley

The old pro had kept himself out of the lineup. Working in a strange league, apparently he felt that he didn't know the hitters. Even when it began to look like anybody's ball game, he sat tight and waited to see if somebody else couldn't pitch his way out of the spot.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5