NASA Posts Remembrance of Arthur C. Clarke

The U.S. space agency has posted a memorial page on its Web site to honor the legacy of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who passed away Wednesday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at age 90. It notes on the page that "Clarke's work resonated deeply with NASA and its employees."

In a prepared statement issued Wednesday, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said: "With the passing of Arthur C. Clarke we in the space community have lost yet another legendary pioneer of early spaceflight. In Sir Arthur's case, this loss uniquely spans two communities. He was among the earliest of those who developed and promoted serious space mission concepts, both for human exploration of the solar system and for utilization of near-Earth space for immediate human benefit."

NASA notes that last September Clarke sent a special video message to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Saturn's moon Iapetus, which stated that the passage was of particular interest to fans of his 2001: A Space Odyssey, because that moon was his original setting for the famous monolith, which turns out to be a gateway to the stars.

"I want to thank everyone associated with this mission and the overall project," Clarke said in the video. "Science projects are tremendously important for our understanding of the solar system. And who knows, one day our survival on Earth might depend on what we discover out there."

NASA notes that Clarke was a visionary of remarkable powers. In 1945, he proposed the idea of using geostationary satellites as orbital telecommunications relays, which came to be reality with NASA's Echo satellite in 1960. In 1954, Clarke wrote of a design for a lunar base featuring igloo-shaped habitats, not unlike the potential habitats NASA is now testing for it's future lunar outpost, planned to be in place by 2020.

Alan Stern, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, points out that the space agency honored Clarke's most famous work in 2000, when it christened its newest Mars orbiter the 2001 Mars Odyssey.

"Arthur Clarke was a gifted writer of science and science fiction," said Stern, "and an unparalleled visionary of the future, inspiring countless young people throughout the middle and later 20th century with his hopeful vision of how spaceflight would transform societies, economies, and humankind itself."

NASA is also inviting users of its site to post their thoughts on the passing of the great author and futurist.

A user going by only the name Mark posted the following recollection: "As a teenager [in] 1968, after I was awed and motivated when seeing his visions in the film 2001, I saw Clarke speak at a local community college. He spoke about a future where we would be able to receive news and mail, and order groceries and clothing, from a home computer. He also said each home could be independently powered by a small nuclear reactor like those on space probes. Wow! Why not? Now I'm a NASA researcher...still dreaming of his visions for us."

It is a fitting memoriam from a public agency that owes so much to the thinking of a very private citizen of the world.

[Editor's Note: Please see our online feature "Final Thoughts from Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)" for more on the passing of this remarkable human being.]

Advertisement

Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.

Advertisement