"My father was a master mechanic; I grew up with a screwdriver in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other."
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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