Probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s I read a book the general plotline of which was: a teenage boy builds his own spacecraft that operates by pulling and/or pushing gravity. He takes the home-built craft to Mars where he is stranded when one of the vacuum tubes in the device burns out.

I read the book probably 40 years ago so publication most likely 60s or earlier. A key component of the gravity gadget was a vacuum tube, so that almost certainly pens it in the 50s. Doubt if it was from foreign source, the writing was quite American biased.

I think he traveled alone, but that follow up question made me think his girlfriend might have gone with him. It has been too many years for that detail to be remembered.

Light sci fi, nothing dark in the storyline. Situational jeopardy, no bad guys. I hate to spoiler the ending just in case someone wants to read it, but I can add if it would help.

OK. It was suggested I include the ending, so (SPOILER ALERT!!!)

After being stranded and surviving quite well, a team from earth arrives to look for him. A member of the expedition was either his mother (I think) or his father. What happened was, back home they figured out what he had done, but were unable to duplicate the technology. And the space agency REALLY wanted that drive. So the "rescue" mission was really just to try to recover the technology, as they had never expected to find him still alive. Surprise surprise...

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    Yes, she joined him, but her craft crashed, so he still didn't have the part he needed. – sueelleker Feb 16 '19 at 8:00
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    I seem to recall that their 'air pump booster' kept seizing up so she invented snot lubrication, she kept wiping her runny nose on it ..always running due to constant low temperature – DannyMcG Feb 16 '19 at 8:16
  • It wasn't snot-she had a greasy nose, and used that as lubricant. – sueelleker Feb 16 '19 at 17:43

This is probably Welcome to Mars by James Blish.

When the kid gets ready to leave, his contraption won't work, and...

It did not, in fact, take him very long to find out the trouble. It was in the one logically vulnerable spot in the system, and the one about which he could do precisely nothing: the 6BQ5 power tube. It was burned out.

He does end up being rescued by the government, I think because his girl friend persuades them to. She might build a second rig and join him on Mars. I can't remember why she gets stranded as well, if that even happened.

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