Nasa Tried (And Failed) To Invent Jet Shoes In The 1960s

29/04/2014 09:28 BST | Updated 29/04/2014 09:59 BST

If you know anything about Nasa, it might not be a surprise that they once tried to invent jet shoes.

What might surprise you is how close they came - and the fact that their inventor liked to conduct his experiments dressed apparently in a full suit and fedora.

Popular Science took a new look at the project recently, and some of the details are fascinating. It turns out that the shoes were proposed by John D. Bird in 1965, as a method of controlling movement in space.

The system was pretty simple - it comprised a tank of about 15 pounds of gaseous oxygen, and jet shoes worn over an astronaut's boots. By controlling the direction of the jets the idea was the astronaut could easily fly through space.

Oddly, the switches for each jet were located under the astronaut's foot, controlled with the toes.

NASA Jet Shoes

The tests that NASA conducted were apparently quite successful, but the system wasn't perfect and the first models were too heavy to test in the real world. a later set made from alluminium roller skates were lighter, but the tests were wound up after a few test runs outside the Sky Lab orbiting platform in the 1970s.

Nasa describes the disadvantages on its website:

"The criticism of Jet Shoe models was that they were heavy, inconvenient to put on, and needed initial adjustment. There were varied opinions of the value of simulation studies at Langley. … This put an end to tests of these ideas at Langley for some time. The disadvantages to Jet Shoes eventually caused Langley researchers to move on to a new design."

Here is the full NASA paper on the idea, and you can see our favourite images from the project below.