"SF looks towards an imaginary future, while fantasy, by and large, looks towards an imaginary past."
Obviously, RAH didn't invent the ballistic calculator, but he shows originality in applying the same ideas to moving an asteroid to a new orbit. Heinlein graduated from US Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1929; in 1930 he learned how to run devices like the machines that coordinated a ship's main battery, like the Mark XVII Director and Mark III Range Keeper.
(Ford Mark I Range Keeper)
Here's a quote from Robert Heinlein: 1907-1948 Learning Curve, by William H. Patterson:
Heinlein also took the opportunity in Long Beach to stock up on reading material... Amazing Stories had just started a serial by E.E. 'Doc' Smith - "Skylark III" in August. This was a sequel to "Skylark of Space" which appeared while Heinlein was still a midshipman. "Skylark III" was even more engrossing. He risked taking the second installment one midwatch and reading it with one eye on the gauges...
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'... Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.'
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