“God and Robert Heinlein”

Moe Lane quoted the “God and Robert Heinlein” line in his look at the Tomorrowland trailer.

Robert Sawyer said he’d said it first in his 2005 novel, Mindscan.

But actually Steve Savitzky said it first, in his 1998 song “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of”:

But the future that we lost is still someplace out there
Orion still rides hellfire toward the blue,
And rockets proudly land upon their tailfins,
As God and Robert Heinlein meant them to.

And Steve Savitzky credits the great Arlan Andrews, in his 1993 article for Analog, “Single Stage to Infinity”:

Arlan Andrews, reporting on the first flights of the Douglas DCX (a prototype SSTO,\footnote{Single Stage to Orbit} spacecraft) in a 1993 Analog article entitled “Single Stage to Infinity”, said that the DCX and its kin “… take off and land vertically, the way God and Robert Heinlein intended.”

The phrase is frequently misquoted (I have merely paraphrased it; I believe my poetic license is still current) and often mistakenly ascribed (as I originally did) to Jerry Pournelle. Of course, the DCX had landing struts, not fins. Perhaps the best known exemplar of that style of flight was seen in the George Pal film Destination Moon, for which Heinlein was the technical advisor.

Jerry Pournelle has frequently used the line, but he was quoting an often-used joke. I’m pretty shocked that Sawyer seems to think he made it up, but of course old age affects everybody’s memory.

1 Comment

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One response to ““God and Robert Heinlein”

  1. Thanks for that. I always wondered about the origin of the phrase. It is being quoted again now in regards to the Falcon 9 landing the first stage. But a key aspect is missing in that scenario, that it should be for a rocket that takes a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO).
    But this is possible now as well, see some of my posts on the topic here:

    Exoscientist.blogspot.com

    Bob Clark

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