Science Fiction Required Readings
Anne McCaffrey is best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series, which, with the dragons and all, should set her firmly in the fantasy genre. But fans know that that series takes a sci fi turn very quickly, and much of her other work roots firmly in SF, like this story.
Original publication info: Worlds of If, Nov/Dec 1973
Reprinted in “The Girl Who Heard Dragons” 1994.