Tall ships (in this case tall rocket ships) in science fiction of yesteryear had traditionally turned around and landed on the tips of their oversized fins.

In most of the images I recall from childhood, the rockets landed on alien planets and astronauts would extend a ladder and descend to the surface.

But the surfaces of some planets (including our own) are covered with mostly liquid.

Question: I'd like to know the first story to offer a spaceship landing on an oceangoing vessel, rather than on land.

  • 2
    @Valorum I have just asked for one! "...has in fact happened in a science fiction story" makes that clear, I still don't see any problem with this question.
    – uhoh
    Feb 18, 2020 at 23:29
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    @Valorum as much as I thoroughly hate this policy, meta consensus is that "is there any" questions are on-topic. So voting to leave open, but to be frank, also downvoting because these "is there any" questions are rarely interesting. (uhoh, I don't mean that to be rude, but I wanted the distinction between my Leave Open vote and downvote to be made clear)
    – Jenayah
    Feb 18, 2020 at 23:49
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    Is this an unpopular type of question?
    – uhoh
    Feb 19, 2020 at 0:00
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    If I was going to DV this, it'd be because I just can't watch another video narrated by Scott. The 'popularity' off a Q is self-evident in its votes. What is (which this is) and what isn't ontopic has been discussed to death for the last 10y.
    – Mazura
    Feb 20, 2020 at 23:11
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    OK, so back to the question. This definitely happens in Consider Phlebas but I'd be surprised to find it was actually the first.
    – Spencer
    Feb 28, 2020 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


Iain M. Banks's 1987 novel Consider Phlebas (the first Culture novel) features a spaceship landing on a huge oceangoing liner in an even huger artificial ocean, on a mind-bogglingly enormous Culture Orbital.

Consider Phlebas is set during the Culture-Idiran War. The Culture decides to strategically withdraw from a volume of space, to do this they decide to evacuate and demolish an Orbital with billions of inhabitants. (Vogon Prostetnic Jeltz, eat your h...oh wait).

One of the attractions on this particular Orbital, Vavatch, are huge ocean-going vessels, called "Megaships" that sail around the Orbital-girdling ocean. But now they're CAM fodder.

The main character, a Changer named Bora Horza Gobuchul, is an agent of the Idirans. He was rescued after a space battle by some scavengers who wanted his spacesuit. He had to fight and kill one of the scavengers to earn a place on the crew.

Horza's been ordered to capture the story's McGuffin, a lost Culture Mind, and so he plots to kill the scavengers' captain Kraiklyn and take his place.

Horza sees his chance when Kraiklyn decides to loot one of the empty Megaships before the whole thing is demolished.

That's tame compared to what happens after the scavengers' ship lands on the Megaship.....

This just in: Since your question was inspired by the SpaceX floating autonomous landing platforms, just be aware that SpaceX founder Elon Musk actually chose the names Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You as an homage to Iain M. Banks's Culture novels. The Minds controlling Culture ships and other structures choose names like these for themselves, and it's one of the more entertaining details of the whole Culture millieu.

  • 1
    As I said in my comment, I doubt it's the earliest, but it's the only answer I have so far.
    – Spencer
    Apr 20, 2020 at 23:05
  • Thank you for your answer! This sounds fun; I'll try to get my hands on a copy soon.
    – uhoh
    Apr 21, 2020 at 0:50

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