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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Astrogation (to Astrogate)  
  To navigate in space.  

Lazarus Long and Andy Libby are conning the New Frontiers, the enormous spaceship they had just stolen, on a collision course with the sun.

"New Frontiers!" a forceful voice sounded. "Maneuver to orbit and lay to! This is an official traffic control order."

Lazarus shut it off. "Anyhow," he said cheerfully, "if they try to catch us, they won't like chasing us down into the Sun! Andy, it's a clear road now and time we corrected, maybe; You want to compute it? Or will you feed me the data?"

"I'll compute it," Libby answered. He had already discovered that the ship's characteristics pertinent to astrogation, including her "black body" behavior, were available at both piloting stations. Armed with this and with the running data from instruments he set out to calculate the hyperboloid by which he intended to pass the Sun. He made a half-hearted attempt to use the ship's ballistic calculator but it baffled him; it was a design he was not used to, having no moving parts of any sort, even in the exterior controls. So he gave it up as a waste of time and fell back on the strange talent for figures lodged in his brain. His brain had no moving parts, either, but he was used to it.

From Methuselah's Children, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1941
Additional resources -

The term "astrogate" is also used:

"...I can't visualize what the conditions would be if we did pass the speed of light, but it seems to me that we would be cut off entirely from the electromagnetic spectrum insofar as other bodies are concerned. How could we see to astrogate?"

If you think about it, this is a term that sounds better than it actually is if you look at the root words. The word "astrogate" is modeled on "navigate" - navigate literally means navi+gate or ship+drive (or lead). So a navigator is a driver of a ship. "Astrogate", on the other hand, is astro+gate or star+driver - I don't think they piloted any stars in this book.

It might make more sense from an Earth-bound perspective; as Methuselah's Children mentions, the space vessel New Frontiers looks like a star from the surface of the Earth. "Odd," commented Lazarus, "Orion seems to have added a fourth star to his belt."

As far as dates are concerned, there is a slight problem, which is that two versions of this story were published. The earlier, shorter version was published in 1941; since I've been using the 1958 version I've given the date you see above. This term probably appears in the earlier version, but I have no way to check. Anyone? The first use of the basic word "astrogation" was probably Lasser's Conquest of Space, from 1931.

Thanks to an anonymous reader who wrote in asking for clarification.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Methuselah's Children
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Methuselah's Children
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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