Since there have been shoes and flight, humans have imagined what it would be like to strap on some kicks and take to the skies. That’s how Iron Man flies around in the movies; it’s how Cerberus soldiers in Mass Effect 3 soften their landings; and it’s how NASA, in real life, once imagined U.S. astronauts would get around in space.
As part of a public domain dump of 56 previously patented technologies, NASA revealed its once-secret plans to create jet shoes.
“I was looking for a specific propulsion patent the other day and I found something called ‘Jet-Shoes,’” Daniel Lockney, Technology Transfer program executive at NASA, tells Inverse. “Wonderfully, it’s exactly what it sounds like.”
The technology description: “An apparatus for attachment to the feet of a person desiring extravehicular space locomotion having fluid thruster controlled by the toes of the person.”
Sketches of a potential design show how a user’s toe could control the thrusters and how the fuel apparatus would attach to the heel. They’re not even fancy large boots, either; the sketches show off a pair of regular canvas, low-cut Converse shoes.
Practically, these were meant to be used in a space environment where the forces of gravity are of no hindrance to take off. But, who knows, maybe a crafty engineer out there can use these designs to produce a shoe that allows for instant Inspector Gadget-like flight now that the patent is public.
“We’ll develop a technology for a specific aerospace application and somebody in an entirely different industry will come along and say ‘I needed one of those to do this thing,’” Lockney says. “We’re amazed by how many different ways our tech can be used in safety applications, medical applications, consumer goods, ground and air transportation — all sorts of unexpected ways.”