simonmsh writes "The article Cromwell's moonshot: how one Jacobean scientist tried to kick off the space race describes 17th century plans to build a space chariot out of springs, feathers and gunpowder. The design was based on the idea that gravity disappeared at an altitude of 20 miles, which was called into question by Hooke ? and Boyle ? 's work.
It sounds like the plot of a Neal Stephenson book."
Said book, and its sequels are phenomenal.