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"I kind of take it for granted that our great-grandchildren will regard us as a sort of precursor species. That they won't think of us as human and if we could see them, we probably wouldn't think of them as human either."
- William Gibson

Hybrid Mass Driver  
  A device for launching space craft on the first stage of a journey to space.  

How to get to the Moon?

IT WAS ONE OF THOSE GLORIOUS EVENINGS so common in the Pikes Peak region, after a day in which the sky has been well scrubbed by thunderstorms. The track of the catapult crawled in a straight line up the face of the mountain, whole shoulders having been carved away to permit it. At the temporary space port, still raw from construction, Harriman, in company with visiting notables, was saying good-bye to the passengers and crew of the Mayflower.

The crowds came right up to the rail of the catapult. There was no need to keep them back from the ship; the jets would not blast until she was high over the peak. Only the ship itself was guarded, the ship and the gleaming rails...

The outer door was closed; ready lights winked along the track and from the control tower. A siren sounded. Harriman moved a step or two closer.

"There she goes!"

It was a shout from the whole crowd. The great ship started slowly, softly up the track, gathered speed, and shot toward the distant peak. She was already tiny by the time she curved up the face and burst into the sky.

She hung there a split second, then a plume of light exploded from her tail. Her jets had fired.

Then she was a shining light in the sky, a ball of flame, then-nothing. She was gone, upward and outward, to her rendezvous with her tankers.

From The Man Who Sold The Moon, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Shasta in 1950
Additional resources -

See the entry for mass driver catapult for a Moon-based (a non-hybrid) system.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Man Who Sold The Moon
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to The Man Who Sold The Moon
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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