GALLERY OF SPACE FICTION BOOKS FOR OLDER READERS

REACH FOR TOMORROW (circa 1972)

REACH FOR TOMORROW BOOK
COVER

Copyright, 1956, by Arthur C. Clarke (Above Cover: 1972 printing by Ballantine Books, Inc.)


DISCUSSION

The above cover is from a collection of short science fiction stories by Arthur C. Clarke. The scene depicts a space station orbiting the planet Jupiter. Several holes in the station's outer skin indicate meteoroid collisions. A team of astronauts examines and repairs the damage. Tethered to the spacebase, the space suited workers need not fear drifting off into space. A spaceship stands erectly, held firmly in place via tie down wires in the same fashion as boaters secure a ship to the dock.

A common oversight appears in the cover art. The illumination of Jupiter and the space station is not consistent. With respect to Jupiter's terminator, the depicted surface of the station would be shadowed. Another mystery arises as a result of the artist's rendering. If the rocket is to "lift-off" from its stowed position, would not the blast of the propulsion system severely damage the orbiting base. A solution would be a jettison mechanism or small cold gas thrusters for separation. Neither is seen in the picture. Perhaps, the tethered astronauts could release the attachment cords and simply push the rocket into the ocean of space. At an appropriately safe distance, the rocket engine would then be activated.

If the crew is responsible for a "shove-off" deployment, another oversight is apparent in the artist's rendering. Notice the attire worn by the repair workers. There are no thruster equipped manned maneuvering units (MMUs) for working in space. True, there are tethers but they serve no purpose other than that of a boat anchor's retrieval chain.

Another scheme would be to maneuver the enormous mass of the space station away from the rocket. Such a deployment scheme would be ill-advised and wasteful from a fuel usage perspective. Why move the massive station when the fuel to move the rocket would be insignificant in comparison?

In the preface to Clarke's collection of short stories is the author's view of the importance of a semblance of scientific accuracy as the underlying fabric of the fiction. He states: "In each case (speaking of three of the short stories in the collection) some unfamiliar (but I hope both plausible and comprehensible) scientific fact is the basis of the story action...Some critics maintain that this is always a Bad Thing; I believe this is too sweeping a generalization." Incidentally, it is likely Arthur C. Clarke had nothing to do with the cover art of REACH FOR TOMORROW.


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Last modified: Wednesday, 30-Nov-04 09:15:00 PM CDT

Author: Jerry Woodfill / NASA, Mail Code ER7, jared.woodfill1@jsc.nasa.gov

Curator: Cecilia Breigh, NASA JSC ER7

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