June 25, 2013

Arthur C. Clarke being sent into solar orbit on a sweet ride


Clarke before his later incarnation as a badass space knight off to do battle with the sun.

Legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke is about to be sent into space on a totally awesome spaceship, it was announced Saturday.

Though Clarke passed away in 2008, it seems he donated a lock of hair back in 1999 so that his genetic code might be preserved for science and/or badassery. A single strand of Clarke’s hair will be part of the payload of the latest bitchin’ harnessed-explosion-mobile being launched by the joint efforts of NASA and Houston-based company Celestis, which specializes in sending corpses into space. Because of zombies, probably.

You can’t argue with the statistics.

Clarke’s genetic code will be travelling on Celestis’ first craft meant to be propelled by ionic winds. The ship is named the ‘Sunjammer’ after a craft of similar design from one of Clarke’s own stories, published in 1963. As you can see by this chart, ‘solar sail-powered interstellar coffin’ is ranked second only to jet-ski in a survey of most-awesome modes of transportation. This project is undeniably cool.

Other than doing totally awesome things with dead people, Celestis also sends their satellites up with scientific goals. But not just any science—they specialize in a branch of advanced topographical maths known more properly as Tubular Science. In the case of Sunjammer, the craft is meant to be part of an early warning system giving the Earth more time to prepare in the case of catastrophic solar flares. If you can imagine a more epic thing than the ghost of Arthur C. Clarke being buffeted about by massive solar radiation in the noisy void of goddamned interplanetary space, I’d really like to hear it.

While beloved by his readers and knighted by the queen, Clarke was never the recipient of the world’s more famous literary prizes. We reached out to a few celebrated authors to get their reaction to the news that the hairy British knight-ghost of Arthur C-for-Coolest Clarke is being sent into space.

“Oh, wow… really?” Elfriede Jelinek asked when told the news, idly running her fingers over her Nobel medal. “Like, space space? Not just, you know, orbit or whatever? Because … Man that’s pretty cool. Science fiction, you say?”

Peter Carey sighed audibly when being told about Clarke’s probable resurrection by the totally awesome aliens hiding on the far side of the sun. He then stood, swept his multiple Booker prizes off of his desk with an outstretched arm, and staring for a long while at his hands, eventually asked “Where did I go wrong?”

Philip Roth was unwilling to comment, though he was reported by associates to have begun swearing under his breath before angrily booting up his writing computer.

The flight is scheduled for late in 2014.



Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.