The 1960s were a fascinating time for technology, including transportation technology. While key inventions (like the automobile, aeroplane and space-reaching rockets) were invented before the 1960s, the '60s nevertheless witnessed a number of innovations in air and space travel. Some of the most interesting transportation inventions of the 1960s were eventually used in space flights, including the 1969 moon landing.
The decade of 1960s was in many ways the defining moment in the "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. This decade, in which the first human walked on the moon, was not surprisingly witness to many inventions in space transportation technology. While unmanned, space-reaching rockets had been around since the 1950s, actual human-carrying spacecraft were invented in the 1960s, to support manned missions to space by the United States and the USSR. These spacecraft were substantially different from earlier, non-human carrying rockets and satellites; for one, they could carry passengers; and two, they had attached "arms" that allowed astronauts to travel outside the vessel. Also invented in the 1960s were space docking systems, which allowed spacecraft to connect with satellites in space for the purpose of reloading and repositioning.
The rapid development of satellite technologies in the 1960s led to many innovations in global navigation. The technology that would eventually lead to the global positioning system (GPS) was developed and launched in the '60s, although GPS itself was not commercially available until 1973. The first satellite navigation system was developed to coordinate underwater positions for U.S. Navy submarines; these satellites, called "TIMATON," were launched in 1967 and 1969. Satellite navigation was a huge leap forward for transportation. Since satellites give precise and accurate readings of location, the technology effectively put an end to major navigation errors in sea vessels. Today, satellite navigation can even be used in vehicles to navigate without the help of a human pilot.
Some inventions in air travel were developed and launched in the 1960s. The first aircraft capable of exceeding the speed of sound was the Russian TU-144. Supersonic technology was later developed by companies in many other countries. Another air invention in the 1960s was the vertical launch aircraft. The first vertical launch aircraft, called the "VTOL P1127," was developed by Hawker Siddeley in 1963 and was the first aircraft ever to use a turbofan (air breathing) engine.
Some inventions in the field of experimental transportation were made in the 1960s. One of these inventions was a futuristic flying device that many people associate with science fiction. The "jet pack," a personal device that propels the wearer vertically into the air, was developed in the 1960s by the U.S. military. This technology did not become commercially viable in the 20th century, but it was later produced for sale by a New Zealand company in 2011. Another futuristic-seeming device, the deep-sea submersible, was developed in the 1960s. The first submarine capable of reaching the bottom of the sea (the Swiss designed Trieste) was completed and launched in 1960. This invention grew rapidly in popularity and was used widely in the 20th century.
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- "Daily Mail"; Flying High: Jetback Invention Reached 5,000ft as Futuristic Transport Gets Closer to Commercial Use; 2011
- Stanford News Service; A Brief History of Satellite Navigation; June 1995
- "McDonnell Airscoop"; Gemini 8 in First Space Docking; March 1966