Prelude to Space

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 4 stars

Written in the early 1950s, this book tells the story of Mankind’s first spaceship, the Prometheus, a nuclear-powered vessel that will take its crew of three to the Moon. In this (now) alternative history, Britain is still a major player in the space industry while there is no ‘space race’ between the superpowers, but all nations worth together in an organisation called ‘Interplanetary’ for their common goal. Our perspective into this world is Dirk Alexson, an historian sent from the University of Chicago to write the first draft of history for this pivotal moment in Human affairs.

Looking back it seems impossibly naive, but as Clarke points out in his post-Apollo preface, until America was frightened out of complacency by the “beep, beep beep” signal from Sputnik 1, it didn’t have any real ambitions for space and Britain’s Interplanetary Society was at the forefront of space exploration.

Clarke gets a lot wrong but somehow I’d still like to live in his world, where a reusable nuclear-powered craft is launched on a high-speed acceleration track in the Australian desert to the chimes of Big Ben and the superpowers work with the other nations of the world towards a new frontier purely for the joys of exploration and science rather than national interest.

Book details

ISBN: 9780345341020
Publisher: Del Rey
Year of publication: 1950

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