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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

  The first instance of this phrase, it denotes a space-going vessel.  

As far as I know, this is the first instance of this word anywhere. Instead of referring to a person who travels in space, it is the name of a space vessel.

I had my vessel constructed with walls three feet thick, of which the outer six and the inner three inches were formed of the metalloid. In shape my Astronaut somewhat resembled the form of an antique Dutch East-Indiaman, being widest and longest in a plane equidistant from floor and ceiling, the sides and ends sloping outwards from the floor and again inwards towards the roof. The deck and keel, however, were absolutely flat, and each one hundred feet in length and fifty in breadth, the height of the vessel being about twenty feet. In the centre of the floor and in that of the roof respectively I placed a large lens of crystal, intended to act as a window in the first instance, the lower to admit the rays of the Sun, while through the upper I should discern the star towards which I was steering. The floor, being much heavier than the rest of the vessel, would naturally be turned downwards; that is, during the greater part of the voyage towards the Sun.
From Across the Zodiac, by Percy Greg.
Published by Unknown in 1880
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