I was reading over some story synopsis when I recalled one I'd like to track down. This was likely written in the 1950s or even earlier, definitely Golden Age.

All I recall for sure is that the protagonist is near Venus but his rocket isn't powerful enough and he's being pulled down to the planet, or perhaps into the sun.

To escape, he begins cutting away the crew area of his spaceship until all he's left with is a closet, containing just enough air to get him to a point where someone can pick him up.

I seem to recall, but may be conflating stories, that everything started when he came across a crate full of what he initially thought were very good models of construction equipment, like bulldozers.

We later learn these are actually real bulldozers, being sold to the small native Venusians.

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    That sounds familiar. I'm pretty sure I read it. I could never find it again afterwards. I thought it was from Heinlein, but never found one that matches it. Maybe I mixed it up with Heinlein because I first read "Space Cadet" about that time.
    – JRE
    Apr 4, 2018 at 20:31
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    The story I remember had small, fully functional tractors that were small enough to be held in two hands, and were first mistaken for toys - until one leaked gasoline while the characters were examining it. I think the same book had a scene where the controls of a ship were destroyed, so they pulled the wiring out and kind of "hotwired" things to fire the engines.
    – JRE
    Apr 4, 2018 at 20:34
  • Waiting to see what turns up.
    – JRE
    Apr 4, 2018 at 20:35
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    What kind of propulsion does the "closet" have, to keep it from following the rocket ship's trajectory down to the planet or sun?
    – user14111
    Apr 4, 2018 at 20:48
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    @JRE - yes that is the same story! Apr 4, 2018 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


Some elements of what you describe sound like 'Brake' by Poul Anderson

Following a failed takeover by pirates, a ship is left with insufficient reaction mass to get into orbit around Jupiter. The captain calculates that by stripping as much mass as possible out of the hull, and utilising the last of the fuel and aerobraking, he can get the ship into Jupiter's atmosphere where thanks to the reduced weight of the ship it will 'float' while they await rescue

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    Although I'm not familiar with the story, I'm somewhat relieved to hear that the physics (sort of) makes sense. "Cutting away the ship to avoid being pulled into the sun" had me scratching my head. Even by 1950s pulp SF standards, that would be pretty bad. Oct 12, 2018 at 22:10
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    Since the OP has confirmed that we are both thinking of the same story, I feel safe in saying that this is not it. No mention of Venus or Venusians in "Brake." The main scenes also took place inside the orbit of the Earth (Venus/Mercury) rather than out towards Jupiter.
    – JRE
    Oct 12, 2018 at 22:36
  • Yeah, that's definitely not the one I'm thinking of, but as you say, does have some similar elements. Oct 15, 2018 at 12:07

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