In November 1971, authors Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke joined scientists Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray for a panel discussion at Caltech. The occasion was the imminent success of NASA's Mariner 9 Mars orbiter, which would narrowly beat Soviet space probes to become the first man-made satellite to orbit an alien world.
In this video, released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in honor of the late Bradbury, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, the author of science fiction classics like The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 reads a poem, "If Only We Had Taller Been," that eloquently expresses the spirit of space exploration.
There's some kidding around in the beginning of the footage as Bradbury discusses the pitfalls of being a science fiction author with a scientifically informed readership. But as Bradbury reads the poem, which extends Newton's sentiment of "standing on the shoulders of giants" to galactic proportions, one feels the great passion for achievement and discovery that captivates, inspires and drives scientists and artists alike.
In addition to helping bring science fiction into the mainstream with his short stories and novels, Ray Bradbury also wrote poems and plays.
In an interview in the 1970s, Bradbury said he considered himself not so much a science fiction writer, but "a writer of fairy tales and modern myths about technology."
"What I have always been is a hybrid author," Bradbury said in 2009. "I am completely in love with movies, and I am completely in love with theater, and I am completely in love with libraries."
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