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"As the rate of technological development speeds up, the gap between science fiction and what we’re living now is getting narrower all the time."
- Richard Morgan

Jump Harness  
  A device small enough to be worn as a backpack, that gave booster power for jumping.  

Heinlein does not give any real details as to how this is accomplished. I think the use of the device serves a literary purpose, though; a simple word like "jump" goes well with the teen "cherubs."

"Cherub here!"

A youngster in his teens came dashing up. He was dressed in short full robe, tights, slippers and pigeon's wings.

Boone ordered "Fly up to the Sanctum office and tell the Warden on duty that I want another pilgrim's badge at the Sanctuary gate right away. The word is 'Mars.'"

"'Mars,'" the kid repeated, threw Boone a Scout salute and made a sixty-foot leap over the crowd. Jill realized why the robe looked bulky; it concealed a jump harness.

From Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Putnam in 1961
Additional resources -

Heinlein is not the first author to use the idea; I think that the creators of Buck Rogers also used one in the 1920's.

German engineers created the "Himmelstürmer" (Skystormer) towards the end of WWII. This device allowed jumps of up to 180 feet in length, with a height of about fifty feet.

After the war, the device was turned over to Bell Aerosystems. Wendell Moore, an engineer with Bell Aerosystems in 1953, is credited with the first workable rocket belt. Moore then called the device the un-romantic name of Small Rocket Lift Device, or SRLD. This was the type of jetpack used in the James Bond film Thunderball.


(Bell Aerospace Rocket Belt)

Among the many technical difficulties encountered in real life were a lack of stability in flight and the weight of the propellant.

It's probable that Heinlein took the idea from the Jump Belt, created in 1958 by Garry Burdett and Alexander Bohr of the Thiokol Corporation. Compressed nitrogen gas was used for propulsion; two nozzles at belt level (directed downwards) produced enough thrust to jump higher and run faster. Like Heinlein's jump harness, it was not a true flying device.

For a modern version of a device like this, take a look at Swiss Rocket Man.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Stranger in a Strange Land
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Stranger in a Strange Land
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Jump Harness-related news articles:
  - Jetpack From New Zealand Takes Off

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