In slightly more optimistic news of sci-fi death than we’ve been accustomed to of late, a strand of Arthur C. Clarke’s hair is set to be launched into space on the Sunjammer solar sail next year. Named after Clarke’s eponymous 1963 short story, the sail will be launched by aerospace funeral company (definitely a thing) Celestis on a memorial flight into deep space, bearing that one piece of the revered author’s remains alongside ash samples from Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry, his wife Majel Barrett Rodenberry and James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series. Somewhere out there, several fanboys are currently mulling over some decisions about their future.
Clarke – author of, amongst an intimidating number of others, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise – donated the hair in 1999, nine years before his death, aged 90, in 2008, telling Charles Chafer, co-founder of Celestis, ‘I’d give you more, but I don’t have anything to spare.’ That one hair will finally leave Earth’s atmosphere fifteen years after it was plucked, with Celestis aiming to launch the Sunjammer in November 2014. The sail is funded by NASA, which joins Celestis in the project alongside Californian inflatables experts L’Garde, with the aim being to travel three million kilometres towards the sun on a mission which Celestis claims could potentially last for millions of years.
Sayeth Celestis: ‘Solar Sail propulsion represents a breakthrough technology allowing satellites and spacecraft to harness the unlimited power of the Sun, known as photonic energy, to navigate without the constraints of traditional fuel or propellant. Solar Sails will not only increase the mission life of satellites and spacecraft, but they can also reduce overall costs exponentially, as well as provide the flexibility to maneuver into unique orbits and positions in space.’ (This is still a publishing site, by the way.) It is, of course, one of the most fitting ends imaginable for a man whose own imagination spurred on so many young minds to pursue careers in science and make endeavours like this possible.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.