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Rocketman Crosses Colorado Gorge 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-up-and-away dept.
nandemoari writes "Remember the 1991 film, 'The Rocketeer,' where a young pilot uses a jetpack prototype to become a masked vigilante and win the heart of Jennifer Connelly? That scenario isn't as far-fetched as it once was, given that an American stuntman recently used a jetpack to soar over Colorado's Royal Gorge. The stuntman in question is one Eric Scott, who recently appeared on CBS' Early Show and a variety of local cable channels after making his daring leap. Scott has been testing jetpack devices for 16 years, and was confident that he wouldn't plummet to his untimely death when he straddled the Gorge above the Arkansas River earlier this week. Despite an enormous gulf between the two sides — 1,500 feet across and 1,000 feet down — Scott made the trip safely."

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Rocketman Crosses Colorado Gorge

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  • No parachute (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pinckney (1098477) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @01:12AM (#25906613)
    Note that he didn't wear a parachute. He's been doing this for years, apparently without serious mishaps, so I suppose he had reason to be confident.
  • by neokushan (932374) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @01:37AM (#25906687)

    Goes without saying really, but iwantoneforchristmas.

    • by maxume (22995)

      It's expensive, dangerous and nearly completely useless.

      Party balloons full of gasoline have all the same advantages without being expensive.

      • Party balloons full of gasoline have all the same advantages without being expensive.

        I think Boba Fett would disagree.

  • hydrogen peroxide, huh? Does that react with something or what? They didn't really say. I wonder if you can just dump in more and take off again. That'd be cool! Plus, that stuff's cheap in large amounts.
    • by dexmachina (1341273) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @01:51AM (#25906737)
      Hydrogen peroxide naturally decomposes into water and oxygen gas: 2(H2O2) -> 2(H2O) + O2 but it's a very slow reaction. But, throw in a catalyst like silver and it happens in milliseconds. It's a highly exothermic reaction, so at those rates, it actually produces oxygen gas and superheated steam, which is directed through a nozzle. The catalyst isn't used up, so yes you could just refuel and take off again, though the equipment probably needs time to cool down.
      • Could he not used liquid nitrogen to cool the hardware down, like a computer does a cpu?

        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          Could he not used liquid nitrogen to cool the hardware down, like a computer does a cpu?

          Only overclockers do that. Liquid cooling systems don't use liquid nitrogen.

          And you'd only use it during operation, and only if you can maintain the temperature. You try cooling a hot tank rapidly with liquid nitrogen, you're likely to crack the tank. Remember Alien^3?

          Try dumping liquid nitrogen in your car's radiator after it has overheated in the middle of the desert (but not without prearranging alternate transport).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Glonoinha (587375)

        I wouldn't be surprised to read that the jetpack he is using is based strongly on the engine that powered the ME-163. The 'fuel tank' consisted of two bladders - one full of concentrated hydrogen peroxide and the other full of high grade methanol.

        Actually wikipedia says that the first component wasn't H202 but N2H4 - but I'm skeptical. I've always heard it was concentrated peroxide, and lab experiments I've seen support that theory.

        Regardless - back in WWII the biggest threat to the ME163 pilots wasn't ge

        • You can make a reasonable rocket using just hydrogen peroxide, as long as the concentration is over about 70%, because there's enough heat given off when it breaks down to vaporize all the H2O2 and all the water making up the rest of the volume.
          You can add some sort of fuel, if you want, and it increases the specific impulse, but it also greatly increases the complexity. You can't pre-mix the fuel and oxidizer for fear of it exploding, so you have to figure out how to do fuel injection. Traditionally, you

    • "hydrogen peroxide, huh? Does that react with something or what?"

      Catalytic decomposition, I would guess. Simple and reliable, like the hydrazine RCS thrusters on spacecrafts.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        "hydrogen peroxide, huh? Does that react with something or what?"

        Catalytic decomposition, I would guess. Simple and reliable, like the hydrazine RCS thrusters on spacecrafts.

        RCS exhaust is lethal to unprotected humans. At normal shuttle landing sites huge fans are used to blow gas away from the orbiter before any seals are cracked. At emergency landing sites ground crews are briefed to keep clear of the spacecraft.

        Eric Scott is still alive so this is not like the RCS system on a spacecraft.

        • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @05:28AM (#25907515)
          ...and that is precisely why they are using hydrogen peroxide instead of hydrazine or one of its derivates, even though hydrazine has a higher energy density and, at the same time, it is less corrosive and can be stored for an extended period of time. But the principle of the thruster is the same - catalytic decomposition of a monopropellant. What exactly does it make it "not like the RCS system on a spacecraft", other than the choice of the monopropellant?
          • What exactly does it make it "not like the RCS system on a spacecraft", other than the choice of the monopropellant?

            The Apollo RCS uses Nitrogen Tetroxide and Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine [wikipedia.org]. This mixture burns on contact so no ignition system is needed. Both components are very dangerous to handle.

            • I missed the part where I am talking about Apollo. And almost all rocket fuels are very dangerous to handle, including hydrogen peroxide, so what exactly is the point? Especially when all I was mentioning was the mechanical simplicity of a monopropellant thruster.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @06:00AM (#25907625)

          Like != identical to.

          A hydrogen peroxide jet is a monopropellant thruster: all you need is the H202 and a catalyst, which isn't used up. Hydrazine thrusters come in two forms, monopropellant and bipropellant. The monopropellant type is a lot like an H202 jet, and the exhaust is ammonia, nitrogen and hydrogen.

          The bipropellant form mixes hydrazine and N204, which is hypergolic - it ignites itself. The exhaust is nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water. The concern with hydrazine thrusters is leaking, unburned hydrazine, not the reaction products.

        • by v1 (525388)

          RCS exhaust is lethal to unprotected humans. At normal shuttle landing sites huge fans are used to blow gas away from the orbiter before any seals are cracked.

          That's one of the big things I remember from the first space shuttle flight was seeing them put giant fans by the orbiter after it landed, for what seemed like ages, before anyone got out. I always wondered what they were so worried about needing to blow off the shuttle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)

      hydrogen peroxide, huh? Does that react with something or what?

      Good old catalytic decomposition, I would guess. Simple and reliable, like the hydrazine RCS thrusters on spacecrafts.

      • Good old catalytic decomposition, I would guess. Simple and reliable, like the hydrazine RCS thrusters on spacecrafts.

        Yeah, there's a silver mesh it's pumped across. One of my many childhood engineering experiments that never came to fruition.

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @01:47AM (#25906725) Journal

    Can't a parachute be strapped on the front or something? This guy made it across without being harmed, but I would hardly refer to such an activity as safe. No redundancy = not safe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)
      There is a certain minimal altitude below which the parachute is quite useless. Under controlled conditions, you can jump even from comparatively low towers, but this jetpack most likely is not designed to climb into that altitude. Perhaps flying horizontally over a canyon as in this case *could* make this difference, but if this device fails when you are 200 feet above the ground, you are screwed.
      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @05:21AM (#25907483) Homepage Journal

        There is a certain minimal altitude below which the parachute is quite useless.

        Hang glider pilots carry ballistic parachutes which eject themselves from a container and open at the end of a tether. That way you only fall far enough to inflate the canopy. A parachute like that could work from 100 feet or so.

        The rocket here seems pretty reliable but I would worry about a control system failure.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ceoyoyo (59147)

          As a hang glider pilot, below a few hundred feet your reserve is worse than useless. The canopy just doesn't inflate fast enough to make any difference.

          This guy was over a 1000 foot canyon, so if he threw a parachute in the middle it might help, but the things don't really steer so he'd probably just end up hitting the wall and falling anyway.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Inzite (472846)

            BASE jumpers jump from the Royal Gorge annually at the Go-Fast games. A parachute (round or ram-air) would almost certainly have helped in case of malfunction.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ceoyoyo (59147)

              BASE jumping is a special case where your parachute deployment is very carefully orchestrated and your parachute is also carefully designed to be steered. Plus you're not carrying a heavy, malfunctioning jetpack on your back. Even then, BASE jumpers frequently crash into things.

              A BASE jumper deploying his chute from a stationary position on the edge of the gorge is a bit different from this guy, ten senconds into his flight (and ten seconds from landing) realizing he's got a problem and deploying a chute

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Inzite (472846)

        I'd wager the reason a parachute wasn't used is because of the added weight. Even a simple one-canopy reserve adds 6 or 7 pounds. Also, there's not as much of a "cool" factor to the crossing if it's done with a chest-mount reserve.

        I can't comment on round-canopy reserve rigs, but modern 7-cell BASE canopies can be inflated enough to prevent death in well below 50 feet (dependent upon airspeed - at terminal velocity, this figure increases to around 100 feet).

        These jetpacks are very tricky to fly, however.

    • Can't a parachute be strapped on the front or something? This guy made it across without being harmed, but I would hardly refer to such an activity as safe. No redundancy = not safe.

      I noticed that he stayed fairly close to the bridge. Maybe he planned to turn right as an alternative to doing a Homer.

    • Can't a parachute be strapped on the front or something?

      Wikipedia sez: *(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_pack )

      A consequence of the short flight time of any peroxide-based pack is that the entire flight is below the minimum parachute altitude. Accordingly, any loss of control or failure of the pack is most likely fatal.

      • TFA says he flew over a deep deep gorge.

        Why did you go to all the trouble of finding that in wikipedia when you could have RTFA much more quickly?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          TFA says he flew over a deep deep gorge. Why did you go to all the trouble of finding that in wikipedia when you could have RTFA much more quickly?

          Most of the flights he makes are not over deep gorges. So clearly this is not part of his normal equipment. Since every other flight he makes would kill him if the equipment fails, and he makes far more flights not over gorges than over gorges, what is the sense for him to add a parachute for only this one fight.

  • Movie? (Score:3, Informative)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @02:40AM (#25906921)
    Anyone got a movie of this stunt? Sounds really cool, would be even cooler to actually see him doing it.
  • geeez, what's not mentioned explicitly is the implpications of the fact that he managed to cross the 1500 feet - 1 mile - in 21 seconds.

    that's an *average* speed of 180mph!

    dang.

    • by Vilne (1243120)
      1500 feet in 21 seconds = around 48mph
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Not being an American I'm not exactly sure what a mile is, nor a foot, but units says there are 5280 feet in a mile, not 1500.

      • by indi0144 (1264518)
        A Mile it's about 1500 meters so I guess the error comes from that odd metric system, not everyone easily adapt to singularity (or have to).
    • If you look at the video (http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=6323927 beware of stupid advert first), you will see that he takes about 15sec to cross the gorge, and 6 sec hovering to land.

      This is about 100feet/sec, or about 68mpg. I wouldn't be surprised if his peak speed were close to 100mph.

      This does not mean I'm any less impressed with the technology or the stunt, I just like to get the figures right also.

  • Sure, what this guy did is cool, but this is the real Rocketman:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN3MGN899yE [youtube.com]

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @08:11AM (#25908109) Journal

    Eric's a fine stunt specialist with a lot of experience and his jetpack work goes way beyond regular stunt work. But there is a stuntman who rightfully earned and uses the name "Rocketman", and it's not Eric Scott. The real Rocketman built many stunt devices, including Evel Knievel's. He also headed the team to build and fly the first amateur rocket to cross the internationally accepted altitude defining "space". Of course he's not going to fault Eric for the press's inevitable use of the name "Rocketman" -- they do it every chance they get. But these other guys get called that and then that name forgotten. But Ky Michaelson http://www.the-rocketman.com/rocketmanhist.html [the-rocketman.com] remains THE Rocketman.

    • Eric's a fine stunt specialist with a lot of experience and his jetpack work goes way beyond regular stunt work. But there is a stuntman who rightfully earned and uses the name "Rocketman", and it's not Eric Scott.

      No, "Rocket Man" is a song by Elton John.

      (also a short story by Ray Bradbury)

      • by doom (14564)

        No, "Rocket Man" is a song by Elton John.

        Memorably covered by William Shatner.

        (Hey Geoffrey.)

  • ...when he crashes, will he win a Darwin award? Thank you very much.
  • But getting there slowly right? We will have our jetpacks one day! The rocket pack used reportedly has a 45 second flight time, the gorge crossing took 20 seconds.

    Its not a jet pack exactly but the Martin Jetpack is one you will be able to buy, and has a flight time in the range of hours... and runs on gasoline.

    linkage: http://www.martinjetpack.com/ [martinjetpack.com]

    I'll park it next to my Moller flying car. This technology should be available be available in the late 90's, right after the manned mars missions.
  • "When asked for comment Yves Rossy, described the stunt as 'cute'".

    http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/flight-of-the-jet-man-3757/ [nationalgeographic.com]

    (No, not really)

  • Wait, a guy using a jetpack to fly over a gorge makes him a small step away from being a masked vigilante and winning the heart of Jennifer Connelly?

  • Did he win Jennifer Connelly's heart?

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