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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Rocket Racing  
  Use of reaction mass vehicles for races held within the solar system.  

I think it's important to understand the era in which this story was written. In 1925, Henry Ford was making a new Model T every twenty-seven seconds, and by the time of this story (1939), there were millions of second-hand cars around for every young man with a tool kit, which was most of them.

I was down there, entered in the open-class main event, with a little five-ton soup can of rare vintage, equipped with quartz tube linings and an inch of rust all over...

Anyway, I was down in the engine well, welding a new brace between the rocket stanchion and the main thrust girder...

They'd given out the course that morning. We were to head out from Kor, point straight at Jupiter with a climb out of the plane of the ecliptic, drive down and hit a beacon rocket they were holding on a direct line with the big planet, forty million miles this side of him; that made about an even three-hundred-million-mile course from Mars, out and back, figured for eight days at a constant acceleration and deceleration of two gravities. It had been advertised as the longest and toughest race in rocket history, and they were certainly living up to the publicity...


(Rocket Racing from 'Habit' by Lester del Rey)

The starter was singing out his orders, and the field was being cleared. Jimmy grabbed my hand. "Good luck, Len. Don't ride her harder than she'll carry..."

Then they forced him off the field, and I was climbing into the cockpit, tightening the anchor straps of the shock hammock about the straitjacket I wore...

Finally, I got the signal and gave her the gun, leaving Mars dangling in space while I tried to keep my stomach off my backbone. The first ten minutes are always the toughest...

From Habit, by Lester del Rey.
Published by Astounding in 1939
Additional resources -

Read more about this exciting era in the article for rocket-polo from Ra for the Rajah (1938) by John Victor Petersen.

Compare to the more genteel sport of solar sailing in this article on the solar yacht from Sunjammer (1963) by Arthur C. Clarke.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Habit
  More Ideas and Technology by Lester del Rey
  Tech news articles related to Habit
  Tech news articles related to works by Lester del Rey

Rocket Racing-related news articles:
  - Rocket Races Approved For Earth Only, Unfortunately

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