Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Sky at Night ~ Bases on the Moon (1963)

Today on Far Future Horizons we present an episode of the late Patrick Moore’s highly acclaimed television series The Sky at Night from 1963 featuring the late Arthur C. Clarke titled Bases on the Moon.

Many of the early Sky at Night programmes were destroyed or lost from the BBC library. Recently this early and very rare programme from 1963 with Arthur C Clarke, was discovered in an African TV station. Patrick and Arthur were both members of the British Interplanetary Society and here they discuss bases on the Moon and Mars. Arthur C Clarke made very few interviews, so this really is a broadcasting gem- once lost, but now found.

A Montage of illustrations by R.A. Smith of the British Interplanetary Society

The episode, about lunar exploration, starts off with an illustration of a lunar base concept, dominated by a large silvery dome. “I expect that this scene looks rather strange to you,” the show’s host, Patrick Moore, says in a voiceover. “Even though it may look like something out of science fiction, it is something that will probably be set up before the end of this century.”

After discussing some of the issues associated with lunar exploration, including the debate about whether spacecraft attempting to land on the Moon would sink into deep banks of lunar dust, Moore then introduces Clarke, who first reviews his concept of geosynchronous communications satellite. (He notes that the first such satellite, Syncom, had been launched by NASA “just a few weeks ago”; the date of the program isn’t given, but Syncom 2—Syncom 1 failed before reaching geosynchronous orbit—was launched on July 26, 1963.) Such satellites, he said, “are probably the key to the future of world communications,” an assessment that may today be overstating its impact, if only moderately, given the major role played by terrestrial alternatives like fiber optic links and wireless systems.

Arthur C. Clarke’s original diagram for his concept of a three-satellite orbiting system for relaying radio signals around the Earth.

R.A. Smith Lunar Lander

Clarke then launches into a discussion of human lunar exploration, noting the similarities to design studies of lunar landers and bases done by the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) in the 1940s and 1950s with contemporary efforts by NASA (although the BIS’s lander appears considerably larger than what NASA’s Lunar Module turned out to be). 

R.A. Smith's Lunar Base

Later, he showed illustrations of a Mars base that, like the lunar base, were dominated by giant domes. “It’s a good deal further away in time,” Clarke said of the Mars base, “but it undoubtedly will come.”

R.A. Smith's Mars Base

The Sky at Night ~ Bases on the Moon (1963)
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