"As the rate of technological development speeds up, the gap between science fiction and what we’re living now is getting narrower all the time."
The Nautilus, a passenger spacecraft, was in orbit around Venus. What was the best way for a passenger like Don Harvey to get to the surface?
And how could such a ship find its way safely back to a designated landing site on the surface of the planet? By using, as Heinlein points out, the energy it had already built up in gaining orbit:
(Space Shuttle Columbia)
Note that in Heinlein's "design" the shuttle ship uses a catapult to reach ramjet speed; rocket engines are used only in the last part of the launch. The actual Space Shuttle uses a large external fuel tank with solid fuel boosters to reach orbit.
Thanks to Larry for pointing this one out, and supplying the references.
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