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"Science and science fiction, how do you even distinguish the two?"
- Jerry Pournelle

Jet-Down  
  A spacecraft able to explore planetary surfaces.  

Seldon panted, facing a tree, holding it closely, embracing it. He watched for the flying object to make its appearance again so that he could back about the tree and hide on the far side, like a squirrel. ...

He saw it again. It was not a hypership, nor even an ordinary air-jet. It was a jet-down. He could see the faint glow of the ion trails coming out of the vertices of a hexagon, neutralizing the gravitational pull and allowing the wings to keep it aloft like a large soaring bird. It was a vehicle that could hover and explore planetary terrain. ...

The jet-down was closer now, but it couldn't hide from him, either. The rumble of the engine gave it away and they couldn't turn that off, not as long as they wished to continue their search. Seldon knew the jet-downs, for on Helicon or any undomed world with skies that cleared now and then, they were common, with many in private hands. Of what possible use would jet-downs be on Trantor, with all the human life of the world under domes, with low cloud ceilings all but perpetual--except for a few government vehicles designed for just this purpose, that of picking up a wanted person who had been lured above the domes? ...

The jet-down was even closer now, nosing about like a blind beast sniffing out its prey. Would it occur to them to search this group of trees? Would they land and send out an armed soldier or two to beat through the copse? And if so, what could he do? He was unarmed and all his quick-twist agility would be useless against the agonizing pain of a neuronic whip. It was not attempting to land.

Technovelgy from Prelude to Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Doubleday in 1988
Additional resources -

Compare to the shuttle ship from Robert Heinlein's 1951 novel Between Planets.

Thanks to Connor Lawrence for writing in with this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Prelude to Foundation
  More Ideas and Technology by Isaac Asimov
  Tech news articles related to Prelude to Foundation
  Tech news articles related to works by Isaac Asimov

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