The fiction that predicted space travel
After World War II, he volunteered for the RAF and became one of the first experts in radar technology. In 1945, this work led to an article in Wireless World, in which Flight Lt Clarke showed the possibility of finding an orbit, some 23,000 miles from Earth, which would allow a satellite to remain stationary and transmit radio and television signals. Satellites now revolve around what is known as Clarke’s orbit.
After the war, a scholarship to King’s College London led to a first in mathematics and physics. By the 1950s he was publishing both fiction and non-fiction, and also won awards. He will be renowned for more than half a century, consulted by the scientific community and will spend his days sending letters from all over the world. In his later years, he seemed like a relic of a distant era, his tax-free Sri Lankan lifestyle supported by a team of knaves and house boys. And then, of course, there were these accusations of pedophilia in the tabloids.
The future is fantastic
Interestingly, his vision for the future has barely aged. Indeed, some of his predictions still seem incredibly distant. For example, life in Sri Lanka inspired his 1979 novel, Fountains of Heaven, featuring a “space elevator,” a planet-to-space transportation system that would eliminate the need for rocket travel. Those human settlements on Mars or Venus are decidedly late (we humans were supposed to have set foot on both in 1980), and we’re still looking for the key that should have completely unlocked the tongues of whales and dolphins in here 1970.
Being a writer strapped to his desk, and later confined to a wheelchair due to post-polio syndrome, travel kept him busy. He dreamed of teleportation years before Star Trek – which he actually inspired. He predicted the (doomed) Hotol Project of the 1980s, which called for a spaceplane that could fly from England to Australia in 48 minutes, and the much more successful Apollo moon landings. He also envisioned machines that would carry huge loads on a cushion of air, and then bought his own hovercraft. “I thought the hovercraft would be really big. I even went out and bought one. It was a mistake. Hovercraft are wonderful on ice and great for military purposes, but they haven’t become universal as I thought they would, ”he once told the Daily Telegraph.