Jupiter Five

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"Jupiter Five"
Author Arthur C. Clarke
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction
Published in If
Publication date May 1953

"Jupiter Five" is a science fiction short story by Arthur C. Clarke first published in the magazine If in 1953.[1] It appeared again in Clarke's collection of short stories Reach for Tomorrow, in 1956,[1] and deals with the detection and exploration of an old spaceship from outside the Solar System.

Plot summary[edit]

Professor Forster is a distinguished scientist on an expedition with the spacecraft Arnold Toynbee. He determines that the innermost satellite of Jupiter, Jupiter V, is a parked spacecraft from "Culture X", an ancient race of reptiles from outside the Solar System. Culture X coexisted with insectoid Martians, and settled the smaller rocky planets and moons throughout the Solar System apart from the Moon of the Earth. Jupiter V is discovered to be a spherical metal vehicle with a diameter of 30 kilometers. It contains an art gallery with millions of exhibits. One of the art objects is a depiction of a member of Culture X, which Forster dubs "The Ambassador".

It becomes clear that "The Ambassador" was intended explicitly for Mankind. Culture X predicted that intelligent life would develop on Earth and eventually achieve space flight; the statue is a message of greeting and goodwill spanning the gulf of time between its creators' ancient extinction and the arrival of the space travelers from Earth.

A science writer, Randolph Mays, arrives with his pilot and his secretary. Forster takes advantage of a loophole in space law and claims salvage rights to Jupiter V in the name of the World Science Organization. Mays tries to steal "The Ambassador" and other art objects, but Forster turns Mays' companions against him, forcing him to return the stolen items.[2]

Role within Clarke's œuvre[edit]

"Jupiter Five" belongs among Clarke's "few attempts at melodrama", together with his short stories "Breaking Strain" (1949) and "Guardian Angel" (1950), according to David N. Samuelson.[3] Thus, it represents one of few cases in which Clarke overcame his "reluctance to tell traditional action-adventure story in the pulp tradition" due to "his literary allegiances and a desire to downplay the thoughtless romanticism evident in such tales of derring-do" (Samuelson).[3] The work is of a rather insignificant literary meaning.[clarification needed][3]


There are a lot of similarities[weasel words] between "Jupiter Five" and Rendezvous with Rama, a novel Clarke wrote two decades later.

"Jupiter Five" was the inspiration for The Diamond Moon, the fifth novel in the Venus Prime series by Paul Preuss.

It has been suggested[weasel words] that "Jupiter Five" may have influenced the Toynbee tiles.


  1. ^ a b Arthur C. Clarke: Reach for Tomorrow. Ballantine Books, New York 1956, p. IV
  2. ^ Arthur C. Clarke: Reach for Tomorrow. Ballantine Books, New York 1956, p. 128-160
  3. ^ a b c David N. Samuelson: Arthur C. Clarke (1917–). In: Richard Bleiler (ed.): Science Fiction Writers. Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1982, p. 315