An Early Nod to Beamed Propulsion

by PAUL GILSTER on DECEMBER 17, 2012

It’s always interesting how different strands of research can come together at unexpected moments. The last couple of posts on Centauri Dreams have involved new work on Titan, and early references in science fiction to Saturn’s big moon. The science fiction treatments show the appeal of a distant object with an atmosphere, with writers speculating on its climate, its terrain, and the bizarre life-forms that might populate it. But early science fiction also proposed ways of reaching the outer Solar System, some of them echoed only decades later by scientists and engineers.

Christopher Phoenix wrote in yesterday commenting on chemist and doughnut-mix master E. E. “Doc” Smith, who when he wasn’t working for a midwestern milling company wrote space operas like The Skylark of Space on the side. Noting that Titan plays a major role in Smith’s story Spacehounds of IPC, Phoenix pointed out that the tale may be the first appearance in science fiction of beamed propulsion. This was just weeks after I had read an upcoming paper by Centauri Dreams regular Adam Crowl on interstellar propulsion concepts in which Crowl singled out E. E. Smith’s prescience, citing this same story.

Read more: An Early Nod to Beamed Propulsion — Centauri Dreams.

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