Written By: Ben Cosgrove

The original of these strange objects in the sky is not in question. They all came from Earth. They are not the stuff of science fictionza-well, except for one image of a craft built for sci-fi movie. Beyond that, the science here is all real, even if it appears a little strange at times.

This gallery celebrates aircraft—including jet packs; flying platforms, collapsible one-man helicopters and more– that show how badly people have wanted to fly, and the sorts of ingenuity we have unleashed in pursuit of that goal.

Slinky-like light pattern produced by light-tipped rotor blades of a helicopter as it takes off into the dark sky, 1949.

A slinky-like light pattern was produced by light-tipped rotor blades of a helicopter as it took off into the dark sky, 1949.

Andreas Feininger The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Ascending gondola trailing disk-shaped radio antenna during lift-off for high-altitude flight to observe the planet Venus, 1959.

An ascending gondola trailed a disk-shaped radio antenna during lift-off for high-altitude flight to observe the planet Venus, 1959.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Amphibious U.S. Navy plane, 1940.

Amphibious U.S. Navy plane, 1940.

Carl Mydans The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A "K190" helicopter attempting a three-point landing atop the heads of three women holding plywood squares as landing "pads," 1948.

A helicopter attempted a three-point landing atop the heads of three women holding plywood squares as landing “pads,” 1948.

Bernard Hoffman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A man drops a briefcase into the basket on the nose of a helicopter, 1942.

A man dropped a briefcase into the basket on the nose of a helicopter, 1942.

Dmitri Kessel The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A parachute jumper testing equipment for the Irving Air Chute Co. gets some help while struggling to reel in his billowing chute, 1937.

A parachute jumper who was testing equipment for the Irving Air Chute Co. received some help while struggling to reel in his billowing chute, 1937.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children try to catch toys that were released by a kite, 1949.

Children tried to catch toys that were released by a kite, 1949.

Bernard Hoffman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Stunt man Jack Wylie soars over the Chicago River, 1958.

Stunt man Jack Wylie soared over the Chicago River, 1958.

Al Fenn The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Test flight of the "strap-on" helicopter, 1957.

A test flight of the “strap-on” helicopter, 1957.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Flying platform being tested at an Air Force base, 1956.

Flying platforms were tested at an Air Force base, 1956.

Nat Farbman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Bell engineer Harold Graham demonstrating the "Rocket Belt" at Fort Bragg in 1961.

Bell engineer Harold Graham demonstrated the “Rocket Belt” at Fort Bragg in 1961.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Balloon being inflated in preparation for high-altitude ascent, 1959.

A balloon was inflated in preparation for a high-altitude ascent, 1959.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

American paratroopers landing in Korea, with one ripped chute still holding enough air to drop safely, 1950.

American paratroopers landed in Korea, with one ripped chute still holding enough air to drop safely, 1950.

Howard Sochurek The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A blimp above New York, 1961.

A blimp above New York, 1961.

Howard Sochurek The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A plane swerves toward LIFE photographer Allan Grant as one rocket motor fails to start, 1949.

A plane swerved toward LIFE photographer Allan Grant as one rocket motor failed to start, 1949.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The "Pulsa," a collapsible one-man helicopter, 1952.

The “Pulsa,” a collapsible one-man helicopter, 1952.

J. R. Eyerman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Men anchor a huge balloon, 1941.

Men anchored a huge balloon, 1941.

John Phillips The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

An observation balloon spotting for a 155mm gun at Fort Bragg, 1940.

An observation balloon spotting for a 155mm gun at Fort Bragg, 1940.

David E. Scherman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A blimp lands at a Naval air station in 1942.

A blimp landed at a Naval air station in 1942.

William C. Shrout The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Model of the "Space Ark" rocket ship from the sci-fi classic, "When Worlds Collide" 1951

The model of the “Space Ark” rocket ship from the sci-fi classic, “When Worlds Collide” 1951

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

More Like This

Santa Claus lifestyle

The Enduring Appeal of Santa

Pies lifestyle

American Pies

Drum Major at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1951. lifestyle

Welcome to LIFE.com

World Series celebrations lifestyle

The Thrill of World Series Victory

lifestyle

Cool Car Shots

Women's Work-Life Dilemma lifestyle

The Women’s Work-Home Dilemma, 1947