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"We're about 20 minutes away from the point where Clarke's law kicks in and technology becomes indistinguishable from magic."
- Peter Watts

Pilot Beam  
  A signalling device that space craft in orbit descending to Earth could home in on and land.  

Very early description of this useful idea.

“Anything else before we clear?” asked Lazarus. “Oh, yes — Zack, we’d better arrange a place for me to ground, or. I may shorten a lot of lives with my blast.”

“That’s true. I’ve planned on it. Make your approach from the south. I’ll have your berth marked in the usual fashion.”

“Better give him a pilot beam to come in on, too,” Ford warned.

“Why?” asked Lazarus. “I don’t need one. I could set her down on the top of the Washington Monu- ment.”

“Not tomorrow night you couldn’t. Don’t be surprised at the weather.”

From Methuselah's Children, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1941
Additional resources -

Here's the landing sequence:

The thought was cut short by an urgent signal from his board; he had picked up Barstow’s pilot beam.

He wheedled her in, cut his last jet as she scraped, and slapped a se- ries of levers; the great cargo ports rumbled open, and the rain beat in.

Compare to the space-beacon from Exploration Team, the 1956 story by Murray Leinster.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Methuselah's Children
  More Ideas and Technology by Murray Leinster
  Tech news articles related to Methuselah's Children
  Tech news articles related to works by Murray Leinster

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