Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed away yesterday in his Sri Lankan home (NY Times obituary). Arthur Clarke was a technological visionary, scuba diver, scientist, science fiction author, and an inspiration to many, many people. Several of his books were an inspiration to me and my dreams about the future. I was fortunate enough to meet him when he came to do his cameo appearance in the movie 2010: Odyssey Two (I believe it was in 1983). He appeared in a scene in Washington, DC in front of the White House. Arthur is feeding pigeons on a park bench in the movie. Arthur came to speak at a conference we were holding in Washington while he was doing the movie. I was left alone with Arthur briefly backstage before the speech, petrified for a moment about speaking to this great man. But, he soon put me at ease and we had a nice conversation and he signed a copy of his latest book for me.
Some friends of mine got to know Arthur through some of our efforts as space program proponents. On a few occasions I got to speak to Arthur on the phone, once from my apartment in Houston. He was kind enough to let us call him “Uncle Arthur”. Arthur often made virtual appearances via satellite video conferences from his home in Sri Lanka. A fitting way for him to communicate since he was the person who first envisioned communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The last time I spoke to him was by satellite video conferencing. I had planned to visit him in Sri Lanka by sailboat in a few years, but I knew there was a chance his failing health would keep it from happening.
In memory of Uncle Arthur, here are a few relevant things to look at in Google Earth:
Colombo, Sri Lanka – the city near where Arthur lived for the last 50 years.
Space Elevator – One of Arthur’s most amazing visions was the concept of a space elevator. Rather than always launching rockets to get into space, why not ride an elevator? He put the concept in the form of a science fiction book called “Fountains of Paradise” where the characters actually build such a system. Here are a couple of articles about space elevator 3D models for Google Earth (first, a crude simple one I did before SketchUp – and another better one by Gerardo).