Thursday, January 10, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke's "Transit of Earth" (short story, science fiction): Watching the transit of earth & moon across the disk of Sun - from Mars

Readable story, but with an unnecessarily sad ending & some irrelevant flashbacks.

Story summary.

Once every 100 years, earth, sun, & mars align. Such an event happened on 2 May, 1984, day of the story.

A team of 15 was sent to mars to synchronize with the event. Spacecraft Olympus landed on Phobos, a moon of mars. A team of 5 went to martian surface in lander Pegasus. An accident on mars has rendered the lander useless - the only one with the mission. The 5 men that came with it are doomed to die when their oxygen runs out - soon. No hope of rescue. Part way through the story, Olympus will blast off for earth from Phobos with its 10 men.

Of the 5 stranded men, 4 have died. Last one, the narrator, still has a day to live - others apparently died a bit early so one man can record the rare earth transit.

This record of transit is the main highlight of the story. Disk of earth contacts Sun's disk at 0432 hours, Ephemeris time (now outdated). 0450 hrs - earth is fully inside the disk. 1040 hrs - moon contacts the disk, earth is "half the width of the Sun" away. 1047 hrs - moon is fully inside. 1307, earth leaves the disk.

Collected in.

  1. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  2. "More Than One Universe"
  3. "The Wind From the Sun"

Fact sheet.

"Transit of Earth", short story, review
First published: Playboy, January 1971.
Rating: B


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