Clarke once said: 'It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.' After a hundred books, numerous articles, and more awards than you can stuff into your walk-in closet, the Great One of Science Fiction has died. He will certainly be missed, but his legacy is so vast, and his involvement with both the fictional and factual aspects of space exploration are so profound that he will never be forgotten.
The nineteenth century had Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. The twentieth century had Clarke. He must be grouped with the world's greatest visionaries. However, unlike Wells and Verne, Arthur Clarke had the unique opportunity to see his imaginings of a space travel future made reality. And also unlike them, he wrote practical applications for space that are still in use today, such as the famous Clarke Orbit, which is another name for a geosynchronous orbit.
In his now-famous article from the October, 1945 issue of Wireless World, he demonstrated how to place satellites in a stationary orbit, spaced evenly apart, thereby enabling world communications by transmitting signals around the Earth through these satellites.
Today there are about 330 satellites using this type of orbit, and for the purposes Clarke envisioned. He always took pride in this fact.
Sir Arthur spent a lot of time trying to kick humanity in the behind and convince us to move out into space. He was certain this was the direction of the real future for mankind. And he was right, of course. If they had put him in charge of NASA, we would already have Wal-Mart on the Red Planet, and a nice hotel in orbit somewhere near Jupiter, maybe with a special '2001 suite'. On the day we reached the moon in 1969, he was in the booth with Walter Cronkite giving commentary. When Clarke finished speaking with Cronkite, and Neil Armstrong stepped out of the LEM and said his famous words about man and mankind, Cronkite was in tears.
Arthur Clarke often had that effect on people.
Here are what some other folks have said about Clarke:
'Arthur Clarke is one of the true geniuses of our time. I envy him, his brain'.
'The career of Arthur Clarke is one of the most dazzling success stories of the 20th Century'.
'Nobody has done more in the way of enlightened prediction than Arthur Clarke'.
- Isaac Asimov.
'Arthur Clarke made himself comfortable in the 21st century before most people let go of the l9th'.
- F.M. Esfandiary.
'In a world filled with despair and fear, Arthur Clarke has always come down on the side of human possibility against the forces of impossibility'.
'He has done an enormous global service in preparing the climate for serious human presence beyond the earth'.
- Carl Sagan.
'Arthur Clarke was the first to think realistically about the mathematics of gravitational law in respect to the potential space program'.
- R. Buckminster Fuller.
'Arthur Clarke says ideas often have three stages of reaction - first, "It's crazy and don't waste my time". Second, "It's possible, but it's not worth doing". And finally, "I've always said it was a good idea".
– Ronald Reagan
It's difficult for this writer to be completely objective about Clarke. He was one of my heroes, and I have read many of his books. On a personal level, this has been a tough day. I can remember reading his books beginning in the fourth grade, at a little Catholic school in Oregon. I became so inspired that I started using any excuse I could to turn in assignments that were little more than thinly-disguised science fiction. The nuns would sometimes whack my hands with the ruler for this, but I went on to make some modest contributions of my own to the genre. I am not alone. Thousands of people around the world have credited Arthur Clarke as the reason they went into astronomy, science, or even becoming astronauts. They will continue to do so, generation after generation, naming him as their inspiration just as earlier generations have named Verne or Wells as their inspiration.
Sir Arthur C Clarke already has a star named after him. I imagine a few other places in space will follow, as we continue to expand the human presence into the heavens. But Clarke wouldn't care about the naming of places in space for him. He would only be glad we decided to go.