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"The point sticks in your head: physics rules. Virtue does not triumph unless the physics allows it."
- Larry Niven

Planetfall  
  Making a landing on a planet from space.  

What with the retarding effect of the millions of miles of gas they had traversed and Ronny's skillful adaptation of his surviving machinery, the Thuban's speed had been reduced to manageable proportions by the time they were in position for their planetfall. Coming in on a tangent about a hundred miles above the estimated surface, Yphon encircled the cloud-wrapped orb three times on a slowly tightening spiral, gliding swiftly through the tenuous stratosphere, braking as he went.
From Quicksands of Youthwardness, by Malcolm Jameson.
Published by Astonishing Stories in 1940
Additional resources -

A second quote:

The wreckage of the engine room was complete. The inner bulkheads were torn and twisted like crumpled paper, and the intermediate ones pierced in many places by the hurtling splinters of the gigantic Kinetogen, but nowhere had the hull been breached. Ronny looked at the scattered fragments of his great force engine with a wry face. The auxiliaries he could repair or replace from the spare stores, but there was nothing to be done about their motive power unless somehow they could make a planetfall. And even if that unlikely feat could be accomplished, it would have to be on a civilized planet a rare body in these parts.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Quicksands of Youthwardness
  More Ideas and Technology by Malcolm Jameson
  Tech news articles related to Quicksands of Youthwardness
  Tech news articles related to works by Malcolm Jameson

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