At Home with the Backyard Rocketeer

Last fall, PopSci staff photographer John Carnett and writer Larry Smith spent a weekend at the home of self-taught jetpack builder Juan Manuel Lozano, in the suburbs of Mexico City. Here, we give you John's account of their time with the aspiring rocket man. To read more about Juan Lozano and his homebrew jetpack, click here.

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by John B. Carnett

Juan and I had a great time talking about his welding (I just learned to weld about a year ago). In this frame, Juan is welding a support bracket; the shot was taken just prior to his first flight for my cameras. His workshop is very small, but he has it very well organized.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

Here Juan is making his final flight for us. The sun was setting, and the neighbors were looking out their windows at us. The sound is incredible when he lifts off. Larry and I just couldn't get enough of it.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

What makes this picture so absurd is my plastic clogs. I mean, yeah, I always fly my rocket belt with my slip-on shoes†I got to wear the pack for a while. The tanks were empty, though, so all along when I thought I had "the feel," I really never had the full weight on. I can tell you that when you're wearing that pack, you just want to set the thing off and head for the sky. My adrenaline was pumping.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

After a flight you can clearly see the incredible heat coming off the converter. But it held up to the abuse.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

John Gilhooley, my assistant, made this picture of Larry and me with Juan next to his pool. It was the first time that the two of us got all geared up-the 70 pounds really does feel like something on your back. I was ready to go try and fly the thing at that moment.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

I placed a black background on the wall in Juan's second-floor lab. As he stood for my portrait, it was clear to me that he was very proud of his work. He's been working on this project for years, and Larry and I were the first real outsiders to see it all.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

I like the balance between the natural light and my strobe lights in this shot. Juan really pops out with his red jumpsuit.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

The first night Larry and I were with Juan, we got a demo of the raw power of his distilled hydrogen peroxide (it's almost 90 percent pure). Juan took a small piece of leather, poured the H202 on it, and then threw it onto a concrete walkway. As the liquid evaporated, the leather exploded into flames and spun around in a circle for about a second. You don't want to get this stuff on your skin!John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

Juan has designed a still to make his own hydrogen peroxide fuel. The most clever part is the glasswork-it's custom-made by an artist in Mexico City.John B. Carnett

by John B. Carnett

Juan hovers in the same spot for just a moment-he's still getting a feel for his controls. When I watch him up there, I think about the day that he'll be free-flying. It makes me smile, thinking about all that time and effort spent working on something that he dreamed of as a kid.John B. Carnett