H.M.S. Moon Rocket

In the 1930s, Arthur C. Clarke and friends designed their own lunar mission.

Arthur C. Clarke (far right) and other members of the British Interplanetary Society had a visit from rocket pioneer Robert Truax (holding the rocket model) in 1938. (National Air and Space Museum)
Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 3)

Clarke went on to a celebrated career as a science fiction writer, and in July 1969 he sat at the right hand of Walter Cronkite as a commentator on the first moon landing. His friend Val Cleaver became chief engineer of Rolls-Royce’s rocket division. Burgess also became a successful writer and NASA consultant. Only Edwards seems to have peaked with his work on the BIS moonship. He drifted into alcoholism, moved to Ireland, and ended up choking to death on his false teeth.

R.A. Smith continued to collaborate with Clarke as an artist on several books and magazine articles, which earned him a small measure of fame. He painted, invented, played Chopin on the piano, and dreamed constantly of space travel. Several years before he died in 1959 at the age of 54, Smith quit the factory where he had been happily designing rocket powerplants and took a less rewarding job with a company that made pressure control devices. He didn’t want to work on missiles, so out of principle he resigned. 

Meanwhile, in Huntsville, Alabama, Wernher von Braun, a dreamer of a more pragmatic bent, was already hatching his own plans for a mission to the moon and a giant rocket that could take men there.


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus