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"I received a nice letter the other day from the Dalai Lama. He had read 'The Nine Billion Names of God'. It is about a computer at a Tibetan monastery."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Dragonfly Sky-Bike  
  An ultralight human-powered flyer.  

The Rama alien space probe had a vast interior space. Spun on its axis, the big cylinder allowed people to walk comfortably on the interior surface. But, at the axis of the cylinder, there was no gravity, not even the artificial gravity of centrifugal force. You could just float along up there.

Dragonfly was certainly a good name. The long, tapering wings were almost invisible, except when the light struck them from certain angles and was refracted into rainbow hues. It was as if a soap bubble had been wrapped round a delicate tracery of aerofoil sections; the envelope enclosing the little flyer was an organic film only a few molecules thick, yet strong enough to control and direct the movements of a fifty-kph air flow. The pilot—who was also the power plant and the guidance system—sat on a tiny seat at the centre of gravity, in a semi-reclining position to reduce air resistance. Control was by a single stick which could be moved backwards and forwards, right and left; the only 'instrument' was a piece of weighted ribbon attached to the leading edge, to show the direction of the relative wind.

Once the flyer had been assembled at the Hub, Jimmy Pak would allow no one to touch it. Clumsy handling could snap one of the single-fibre structural members, and those glittering wings were an almost irresistible attraction to prying fingers. It was hard to believe that there was really something there...

The whole rudder-elevator assembly, which formed a single unit on an outrigger five metres behind the rudimentary cockpit, began to twist around; then the flap-shaped ailerons, halfway along the wing, moved alternately up and down...

Very slowly, Jimmy started to move the foot-pedals. The flimsy, broad fan of the airscrew—like the wing, a delicate skeleton covered with shimmering film—began to turn. By the time it had made a few revolutions, it had disappeared completely and Dragonfly was on her way.

Technovelgy from Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1972
Additional resources -

Compare to the bat wings from Limits (1985) by Larry Niven and the Storer-Gulls bat's wings from The Menace From Earth (1957) by Robert Heinlein.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Rendezvous With Rama
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to Rendezvous With Rama
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

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