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In Stargate Universe there is a spaceship called Destiny which travels the universe seeding planets with stargates and flying through stars to refuel by collecting the raw materials inside. The ship is also automated. I always thought that was a cool idea but I've been wondering if there was any previous science fiction work which this might be based on.

Note that I am not talking about using solar energy but actually flying into the star and collecting the materials inside.

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    In Poul Anderson's "Tau Zero" (written before it was demonstrated that Bussard Ramjets would act as brakes) once the crew has decided that its only choice is to keep accelerating, there are descriptions of the ship passing through stars. They do get fuel from that, but they're not deliberately aiming for stars.
    – user888379
    Feb 29 at 21:19
  • Arguably Star Treks bussard collectors would work far better near a star (not in a star). But they never did it that way. Feb 29 at 23:28

2 Answers 2

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Ray Bradbury wrote about this in his 1953 short “The Golden Apples of the Sun”. In it a spaceship called the Copa de Oro (Golden Cup) goes on a mission to collect material from inside the sun and bring it back to Earth.

From Planet Stories, November 1953, page 23:

"Captain, do we pull out or stay?”

"Get the Cup ready. Take over, finish this. Now!”

He turned and put his hand to the working mechanism of the huge Cup; shoved his fingers into the robot Glove. A twitch of his hand here moved a gigantic hand, with gigantic metal fingers, from the bowels of the ship. Now, now, the great metal hand slid out holding the huge Copa de Oro, breathless, into the iron furnace, the bodiless body and the fleshless flesh of the sun.

You can read an excellent review here.

See Star Lifting for other examples.

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  • It sounds like the Thunderbirds episode "Sunprobe" may have been inspired by this.
    – AJM
    Mar 1 at 13:45
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    this doesn't seem to be for refuelling, though.
    – ths
    Mar 1 at 16:26
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    @ths If I could revise my question to just ask for gathering resources I would (don't know if it's fair to do it after the fact). I think I was more interested in the idea of going into a star to gather resources in general. Therefore I think this is a good answer too. Mar 1 at 16:56
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    Thanks for giving a name to the idea (Star Lifting). I tried googling for "spaceship flies into star to gather fuel" and could only find references to different video games set in space, none of which related to my query. Mar 1 at 17:01
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Samuel Delany's 1968 novel "Nova" involves retrieving "Illyrion" from inside novae to use as starship fuel.

Wikipedia says:

Illyrion is a fictional superheavy element with an atomic weight above 300, explained as being part of the hypothetical island of stability. It is a powerful energy source; a few grams provide enough energy for a starship. Katin estimates that 8-9,000 kg has been mined.[2]: 29–30 

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    The goal of a question with the [history-of] tag is to identify the earliest example of a given trope, as opposed to just examples in general. Since Dosco Jones's answer already provided an example from 1953, any examples submitted subsequently should be older than that to justify them being posted as answers. Mar 1 at 4:31
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    @LogicDictates except the other answer is not an example of using it for fuelling starships
    – OrangeDog
    Mar 1 at 16:33
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    As long as we are nitpicking, IIRC they do not fly "through" the nova in the sense of crossing the bulk of the material - the conceit in the novel is that a dying star forms a torus, and the ship crosses through the hole in the middle and scoops up the element that is too heavy to be displaced. Phantastic book, though. Mar 5 at 10:00

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