"It wasn't until I was past forty that it bacame clear that I was going to be quote, successful, unquote."
I'm assuming that Niven and Pournelle got this idea from NASA's minimalist Personal Rescue Enclosure:
The ball was 36 inches (86 cm) in diameter and had a volume of 0.33 cubic meters. The structure was comprised of three fabric layers and incorporated a window and a zipper to allow the astronaut to enter and exit the ball. The ball enabled one crew member to curl up inside and don an oxygen mask and hold a carbon dioxide scrubber/oxygen supply device with one hour worth of oxygen.
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