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Arthur C. Clarke – Also the Father of Commercial Space?

The passing of Arthur C. Clarke, announced March 19th, is being grieved widely around the world.  Clarke said recently, “Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered.  I have a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter.  Of all of these I would like to be remembered as a writer”.  In this he was prolific producing fiction and non-fiction books, articles, movie scripts (most famously, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and more.  After serving in the RAF during WWII, he graduated King’s College, London in Physics and Mathematics.  And he, like Carl Sagan and few others, wrote history, science fiction, science-based articles for publication and developed educational and highly entertaining programs for television and film.  This had a major impact on all of us. While serving as an RAF electronics officer during WWII, he published a paper in “Wireless World” that combined the just-emerging technologies of rocketry, wireless communications and radar.  He envisioned an extra-terrestrial system that relied on orbiting space stations in high Earth orbits to relay radio signals around the world.  Only twenty years later, in 1965, the new international satellite telecommunications organization, Intelsat, under the U.S. Communication Satellite Corporation (COMSAT), successfully placed the “Early Bird” satellite over the Atlantic into what is now known internationally as “the Clarke orbit”.  Clarke himself never thought the idea would be realized and his article was almost not published since it was so visionary.  His patent counsel suggested that it wasn’t worth trying to “own” the idea because it was so far-fetched.  However, the current multi-billion dollar international telecommunications industry was born from Clarke’s ideas and can be considered the first widely successful commercial space endeavor.

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