Here it is almost 2022 and we still don’t have our jet packs. But don’t feel bad. NASA astronauts wanted a lunar jetpack, but they didn’t get one either. [Amy] at The Vintage Space has an interesting video about what almost was, and you can see it below.
Of course, a jet pack on the moon would be easier than an Earthbound one. The goal was to allow the crew to range further from their lander since they couldn’t carry very much and the lander didn’t have a lot of consumables, either. In addition, if you lost sight of the lander, getting back could be a problem since navigating on the moon was an unknown skill.
In 1969 awarded exploratory contracts for lunar personal flying vehicles including one to Bell who had their Earth-bound jet pack that shows up every so often for example in Bond movies.
The jet pack didn’t look so much like we’d imagine a jet pack would look. It was more like a tiny flying vehicle you stood on, but let’s not split hairs. It still would have been a very cool ride. The Bell version would have cost about $30 million in 1969 dollars, so it wouldn’t have been a cheap ride either.
The other contractor was Rockwell, who had more of a — there’s no other way to describe it — flying chair. Of course, the actual solution to this was the lunar rover — proving that Americans really like having their own car wherever they go. The rover did allow the crew to get further away from the lander, but it wasn’t as cool as the jet packs that never were.
We still hear about people with jet packs, but we don’t have one. One advantage to the Bell design was that, in an emergency, it could return the crew to the orbiting command module. It turns out, that idea didn’t die with the jet pack, but the Lunar Escape System was also never built.