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"Real science opens windows for us to look through. We're right at the footsteps of the most interesting scientists around."
- Larry Niven

Braking Disks  
  Used when the ship is falling through a planetary atmosphere.  

"We must put out the braking disks, doctor!" called the engineer.

As viewed from the outside, there now came from the nose of the ship (which pointed backward) a cable, on which there were arranged certain distances thin metal disks, which were bent somewhat backward like cones, the result looking like the familiar tufts on the tail of a child's kite. One after another these disks glowed brightly and were worn away and burned by air resistance and the resulting heat, along with their cable, which burned like a candle wick.

But new disks kept coming out on more cable. In this way it was possible to convert the tremendous force latent in the motion of the ship into air whirls and heat in a gradual fashion, and by sacrificing the metal disks the ship itself was saved from burning.

From A Daring Trip To Mars, by Max Valier.
Published by Wonder Stories in 1931
Additional resources -

Compare to the ablative heat shield from Triplanetary (1934) by EE 'Doc' Smith.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Daring Trip To Mars
  More Ideas and Technology by Max Valier
  Tech news articles related to A Daring Trip To Mars
  Tech news articles related to works by Max Valier

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