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"Looking back through history, I see no evidence for humanity making the best of things, and I think it's a pretty safe bet that's an on-going trend."
- Richard Morgan

Robot Spectra Analyzer  
  Device used to find ones position in real space.  

So, you're lost in real space. There must be some way to determine your position relative to the known positions of the stars.

It was a twenty-hour jump, ship's time, and I came through in the middle of nowhere. The robot analyzer chuckled to itself and scanned all the stars, comparing them to the spectra of Proxima Centauri. It finally rang a bell and blinked a light. I peeped through the eyepiece.

A last reading with the photocell gave me the apparent magnitude and a comparison with its absolute magnitude gave me its distance. Not as bad as I thought - a six-week run, give or take a few days. After feeding a course tape into the robot pilot, I strapped into the acceleration tank and went to sleep.

From The Repairman, by Harry Harrison.
Published by Galaxy Science Fiction in 1959
Additional resources -

Acceleration tanks were used to make boosting under high gravities less trying. SF audiences were used to the concept by the time this short story was written; see the entry for acceleration-tank from Doc Smith's 1934 novel Triplanetary.

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  More Ideas and Technology from The Repairman
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