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"You have to budget the number of fuzzy rules you use to control a system. It turns out, you can state the optimality principle in three words: 'patch the bumps.'"
- Bart Kosko

Asteroid Rocket  
  An engine attached to an asteroid to drive it through space.  

Very early description of this idea; it's the simplest space ship.

On the other side of this tiny sphere of hard-won treasure, his Millen atomic rocket was sputtering, spurts of hot blue flame jetting from its exhaust. A simple mechanism, bolted to the first sizable fragment he had captured, it drove the iron ball through space like a ship.

Through the magnetic soles of his insulated boots, Thad could feel the vibration of the iron mass, beneath the rocket's regular thrust. The magazine of uranite fuel capsules was nearly empty, now, he reflected. He would soon have to turn back toward Mars...

The strangeness of interplanetary space, and the somber mystery of it, pressed upon him like an illimitable and deserted ocean. The sun was a tiny white disk on his right, hanging between rosy coronal wings; his native Earth, a bright greenish point suspended in the dark gulf below it; Mars, nearer, smaller, a little ocher speck above the shrunken sun. Above him, below him, in all directions was vastness, blackness, emptiness. Ebon infinity, sprinkled with far, cold stars.

Thad was alone. Utterly alone. No man was visible, in all the supernal vastness of space. And no work of man--save the few tools of his daring trade, and the glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him. It was terrible to think that the nearest human being must be tens of millions of miles away.

From Salvage in Space, by Jack Williamson.
Published by Astounding Stories in 1933
Additional resources -

Here's a quote that describes how it works:

He clambered back to the rocket, changed the angle of the flaming exhaust, to drive him directly across the path of the object ahead, filled the magazine again with the little pellets of uranite, which were fed automatically into the combustion chamber, and increased the firing rate.

The trailing blue flame reached farther backward from the incandescent orifice of the exhaust. The vibration of the metal sphere increased. Thad left the sputtering rocket and went back where he could see the object before him.

Compare to the space bubble (bubb) from The Planet Strappers (1961) by Raymond Z. Gallun. Also, there are a number of references in the article on moving a planet from Triplanetary (1934) by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Salvage in Space
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Williamson
  Tech news articles related to Salvage in Space
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Williamson

Asteroid Rocket-related news articles:
  - Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984

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