Build Your Own Iron Man 'Jet Shoes' With NASA's New Public Patent
This is one of those moments where science-fiction transcends "fiction."
NASA has long held a patent for Iron Man-style "jet shoes," which are exactly as cool as they sound - special footwear that sends out a burst of propulsion to enable the wearer to fly.
Now, NASA has formally released this patent to the public, announcing that anyone who wants to use it can do so legally.
In fact, a spokesman for NASA has stated that the purpose of releasing this publicly is that the agency hopes that someone will make good use of it, finding a way to improve modern life.
There is, of course, a pretty big catch.
While the jet shoes have been designed to keep the wearer aloft, they're currently only designed for use in low-gravity environments, enabling astronauts to better navigate while aboard space stations.
At present, the patent covers:
As is clearly evidenced from the fact that these aren't in common usage among astronauts at the International Space Station, NASA never quite got these things working as they'd hoped.
The agency hopes that by throwing it out to a wider group of people, someone else might be able to solve the inherent problems with the formula and make a shoe that will let a human being fly, otherwise unaided.
There are plenty of budding engineers who'll no doubt be capable of rising to the occasion with this patent. Thanks to some enterprising YouTubers, someone's already invented an Iron Man-inspired jet propulsion system for use underwater, and prototype jetpacks and hover bikes are currently all the rage with scientists around the world.
What's most interesting is the hope within NASA that this patent might be useful to someone in a completely different field, who may find an ingenious use for jet shoe technology that might not have occurred to the engineers working on a spacefaring version of the footwear.
According to Technology Transfer program executive Daniel Lockney:
Whatever happens with this particular patent, one thing is definitely clear: while we're all still annoyed that the jetpack hasn't yet become commercially available yet, we're definitely drawing closer to being able to fly through the skies without a need to go through airport security.
If we want it to happen, the ball is now in our court. Time to start experimenting.