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NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas

This fanciful "high-tech broomstick" is now a part of history at NASA's Lewis Research Center. The year: 1977.

Science fiction writers have had fun with their own fanciful versions of broomsticks. In his 1952 novel Islands in the Sky, Arthur C. Clarke wrote about a simple tool for moving about in zero gee:

Commander Doyle had invented them, and the name, of course, came from the old idea that once upon a time witches used to ride on broomsticks. We certainly rode around the station on ours. They consisted of one hollow tube, sliding inside another. The two were connected by a powerful spring, one tube ending in a hook, the other in a wide rubber pad. That was all there was to it. If you wanted to move, you put the pad against the nearest wall and shoved. The recoil launched you into space, and when you arrived at your destination you let the spring absorb your velocity and bring you to rest. Trying to stop yourself with your bare hands was liable to result in sprained wrists.
(Read more about Clarke's broomsticks)

The idea that really sticks in my mind is the broomstick speedster from Robert Heinlein's wonderful 1942 novella Waldo:

Grimes let his eyes run over his friend's fusiformed little speedster. Its body was as nearly invisible as the plastic industry could achieve. A surface layer, two molecules thick, gave it a refractive index sensibly identical with that of air. When perfectly clean it was very difficult to see.

At the moment it had picked up enough casual dust and water vapour to be faintly seen - a ghost of a soap bubble of a ship.

Running down the middle, clearly visible through the walls, was the only metal part of the ship - the shaft, or, more properly, the axis core, and the spreading sheaf of deKalb receptors at its terminus. The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname. Since the saddles, of transparent plastic, were mounted tandem oven the shaft so that the metal rod passed between the legs of the pilot and passengers, the nickname was doubly apt.

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