"Sunjammer" is a
science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imagination, imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, Parall ...

science fiction
short story A short story is a piece of prose Prose is a form of written or spoken language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...
by British writer
Arthur C. Clarke Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (16 December 191719 March 2008) was an English science-fiction writer, science writer, futurist Futurists (also known as futurologists, prospectivists, Foresight (futures studies), foresight practitioners and hori ...
, originally published in the March 1964 issue of ''
Boys' Life ''Scout Life'' (formerly ''Boys' Life'') is the monthly magazine A magazine is a periodical publication Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial Serial may refer to: A ...
'',.Short Stories
. '''', 2007-2011, retrieved June 22, 2011
The story has also been published under the title "The Wind from the Sun" in Clarke's 1972 collection of short stories with this title. It depicts a yacht race between solar sail spacecraft.

Plot summary

John Merton, a spacecraft, spaceship designer, develops and promotes a lightweight spacecraft with a large area of solar sail, to be powered entirely by radiation pressure—the so-called wind from the sun. The sun-yachts start their journey in Earth's orbit, and, pushed simply by sunlight, can achieve a speed of two thousand miles an hour within a day. The concept leads to the development of the sport of sun-yacht racing, and after several years of refining his ideas, Merton competes in what will be his final race. His hopes for victory rest on the low mass of his craft which he has made possible through advances in automation enabling him to fly it solo. Soon, all but two of the competitors have dropped out, mainly due to damaged craft, and it is a straight race between Merton's craft and ''Pyotr Nikolaevich Lebedev, Lebedev'', entered by a Russian crew from the University of Astrograd. Although the ''Lebedev'' is lagging Merton's yacht, its senior pilot delivers a surprise blow by announcing that he plans to jettison his co-pilot in an escape capsule now that the earlier, navigationally intensive part of the race has finished. Merton responds by recalculating his expected margin of victory and realises that the race is now going to be neck-and-neck at the finish line. At this point news arrives of a massive, and potentially deadly, solar flare. The race has to be abandoned, and there is no winner, though Merton abandons his craft with its sail still fully extended in order to ensure that it will be blown into interstellar medium, interstellar space.


Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr selected the story for ''World's Best Science Fiction: 1966''. When reviewing the collection, Algis Budrys praised the story as an example of "good, solid science fiction ... the kind of story which justifies the existence of science fiction as a genre."

Planned 2014 solar sail mission

NASA planned to launch a solar sail technology demonstration mission titled Sunjammer (spacecraft), 'Sunjammer'. The title is a reference to the story. The mission was cancelled in October 2014.

See also

*Mike Oldfield used the title "Sunjammer" for the fifth movement of his ''Tubular Bells II'' album. Oldfield has also used other Arthur C. Clarke titles as basis for his music, such as ''The Songs of Distant Earth'' for his ''The Songs of Distant Earth (album), The Songs of Distant Earth'' album. *The ''Doctor Who'' serial ''Enlightenment (Doctor Who), Enlightenment'' also used a solar sail race as the basis for its plot. *Poul Anderson, writing as Winston P. Sanders, published an apparently unrelated story under the title "Sunjammer" almost simultaneously in ''Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact'' in April 1964. It depicts a maintenance crew, servicing space-freighters powered by light sails. *A modified version of the narrative appears in ''The Last Theorem'', Clarke's final novel, which was co-written by Frederik Pohl. In this version the (female) protagonist is abducted by aliens during the race. The *Explorers (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) Episode in Season 3, Episode 22, featured Captain Sisko and his son Jake flying a reconstruction of an ancient Bajoran ship that used sails to capture the solar winds to propel it.


*Clarke, Arthur C. ''The Best of Arthur C Clarke''; 1956–1972. Published 1973.

External links

* {{isfdb title, 72206
The Cosmos 1 CD
launched with Cosmos 1, includes the full text of "The Wind from the Sun" and other solar sail writings.
The Wind From The Sun / Sunjammer
comic strip version, by Olivier Boisard. 1964 short stories Short stories by Arthur C. Clarke Works originally published in Boys' Life