Monday, December 26, 2011

Past Futures

Back in 1963, we had barely left the confines of Earth. The Mercury program was underway, and a few Moon probes had been flung toward our natural satellite. With the developing space age, the media were beginning to pick out certain figures from the science fiction field who appeared to have some expertise in envisaging the future.

Somewhat oddly, given his lack of interest in technical and hardware matters, Ray Bradbury became one of the leading representatives of the SF community in media coverage of the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo programmes. Another, more logical choice for such a role was Bradbury's friend Arthur C. Clarke: not only an SF writer, but something of a scientist and "inventor" of the geostationary communication satellite.

Which brings me to a fascinating piece of television history: a recently re-discovered (previously considered lost)  episode of the BBC's astronomy series The Sky at Night. Although usually broadcast only once a month, the series claims to be the longest continuously running TV show in history - and is still presented to this day by its original host, Patrick Moore (himself a science fiction writer, as well as an astronomer). What's interesting in this episode is the guest: Arthur C.Clarke. Clarke talks about all manner of proposals for bases on the Moon and Mars. It all sounds so logical, obvious, and inarguable... and yet most of what Clarke predicts did not come to pass. Because we got bored with the Moon shortly after Apollo 11!

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