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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

Central Guide-Beam  
  A kind of signal that demonstrates the best possible path to a destination in space and even provides motive power.  

I don't think that this is the earliest use of this idea, but it's still worth looking at.

"Well," he said, "you saw for yourselves this was a hospital ship. It carried no crew. It was directed from a central guide-beam at Jupiter. The beam carried it from the Sol System here, where, because of a mechanical error, a meteor penetrated the protection screen and the ship crashed."
From Shell Game, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Galaxy Science Fiction in 1954
Additional resources -

This is an interesting idea. For one thing, there really aren't any straight lines in space, at least for material objects going through the solar system; gravity fields and the constantly changing locations of the planets make direct "beams" difficult.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Shell Game
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to Shell Game
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

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