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" fifty years, do you believe that people will be recognizably human?"
- Greg Bear

  An airplane that flies up to the edge of the atmosphere.  

How can you fly up to the very edge of space? Not in an ordinary plane, not in 1934.

This is the first sf reference to a "stratoplane", as far as I know.

LIKE A FLAME in the sky, the golden-red stratoplane circled Mount Everest and dipped toward its crest. Not so many years ago, that peak had been unclimbed, almost unknown, a challenge to man. Wintry gales tore across this top of the world, and cold rivaled precipices to defeat assault. The bitter winds still blew, but a man-made tower rose higher than the old peak, and a landing field which was a triumph of engineering audacity and genius stretched over sheer space beside the tower.

The circling stratoplane landed and rolled to a stop. The man who climbed out Duane Sharon seemed distinctive even in his heavy flying clothes.

Technovelgy from Colossus, by Donald Wandrei.
Published by Astounding in 1934
Additional resources -

This story features an observatory on the very summit of Everest:

Probably the 400-inch reflector of Mount Everest Observatory would never be surpassed. Man, on Earth, could go no further toward conquering the limitations of atmosphere, metals, and optics. Through this gigantic mirror, underlying a telescope in whose construction the efforts of dozens of great minds had been united for years to produce an instrument of unrivaled accuracy, intricacy, and range, equipped with every device desired by and known to astronomers, study of the universe had reached a climax.

Here's another quote about stratoplanes, from The Iron World (1937) by Otis Adelbert Kline.

ALLEN JENNINGS, American, in the employ of the International Secret Service, glanced at the instrument board of his hurtling stratoplane. The altimeter showed that he was 50,000 feet above sea level, and the crossed wires above the turning globe in his locatimeter, that he was less than a hundred miles from the site of ancient Thebes. He cut the rocket blasts, and the ship continued its forward progress, but now it was dipping Earthward in a long curve.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Colossus
  More Ideas and Technology by Donald Wandrei
  Tech news articles related to Colossus
  Tech news articles related to works by Donald Wandrei

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