“2001: A Space Odyssey” Then – and Now. SpaceRef Reader’s Comments

By Keith Cowing
January 1, 2001
Filed under

The year 2001 has now swept around our planet. For many people interested in space exploration this film has served as both a prediction of- and a stimulus to create the future for more than a generation. Now it is here. Over the coming weeks SpaceRef will be taking a detailed look at the film and its impact on how we both expected – and have actually built – our future in space.

What do you think? If you have any comments you’d like to share please send them to 2001@spaceref.com, Please tell us what you do (aerospace engineer, student, etc.) and where you do it – including your website address. We’ll post your comments with your name and affiliation unless you ask us not to. Comments are subject to editing by SpaceRef.

With regard to your features on 2001, I’ve done a composite image
showing ISS/Alpha as seen through the forward cockpit windows of Atlantis.

The combination of the MEDS flatscreen displays and the real space station
bears, to my eye, more than a passing resemblence to the flight deck of the
PanAm space clipper in 2001. (The shuttle interior came from a
Boeing/Honeywell publicity poster).

I did the image as a reminder that
Clarke may not have been all that far off, even if the station isn’t

Atlantis and ISS

2001 is an extraordinary achievement, both artistically and technically, that
has, in many ways, still not been equalled. And for many of us who first saw
2001: A Space Odyssey when it first came out, Kubrick’s film has been a
symbol of the spirit of exploration with which we will meet our destiny in
space. On the evening of the last day of the 20th century, my wife, Denise,
and I watched Space Station Alpha soar gracefully overhead. New Year’s Day,
2001, is a reminder that Clarke’s vision is indeed within our reach.

I hope that my image and this article help those in the space program look at the film (and the calendar) not with regret for missed
opportunities, but with a well-deserved sense of pride.

Michael Okuda, Scenic Art Supervisor, “Star Trek”, Paramount Pictures,
Los Angeles, CA

“Mike brings up a truly interesting point about the
cockpit displays and window views then and now. The most-often cited comparison of the Orion III spaceplane and the present-day Space Shuttle, is of course, the exterior shape, especially with the Shuttle orbiter’s aerodynamic tailcone in place for 747
transport. Both vehicles feature the “cranked delta” wing shape; it’s
interesting to see how physics has led to similar planforms (whether or
not you believe this is how the Buran came to be is another matter).

The spacecraft and other future hardware design in 2001: A Space Odyssey
continues to inspire even after 30+ years have passed, and it may be
another 30 years before the scientific, artistic, and mechanical talent
can be assembled to bring about another film such as this. One of the
reasons I have continued to pursue astronomical and space technology art
is the hope that it can be done again, with the proper vision, to
further explore our future in space. I’m fond of quoting the story in
Piers Bizony’s “2001: Filming the Future,” wherein Stanley Kubrick says
to artist Harry Lange, “Good illustrators are a dime a dozen, but
illustrators who know about spaceflight systems? Now that’s a
combination I can use!”

Rick Sternbach, Fellow, IAAA, Senior Illustrator, Star Trek Voyager, Paramount Pictures, Los Angeles

I think that much of the appeal of the movie was not only the
effortlessly graceful technology, but that that technology served to
reveal a deeper, grander truth. All of the transportation systems in
the movie were “vehicles” in both the literal and figurative sense.
They moved humans around space, but they also moved humans closer to
revelation and deeper into the mystery, whatever name you decide to
append to it.

The stargate represented Poole’s arrival at the advanced civilization
that had nurtured mankind so long ago. It was filled with fantastical
things he could not understand. Through it, he aged and apparently
came to some understanding.

I can’t help but think that, despite our disappointment, we have
built our parents’ stargate. Or at least our grandparents’. Earth
imaging, cell phones, a permanently manned space station,
500-passenger jets flying 8,000 miles nonstop and landing in 0/0
conditions. Wasn’t it Arthur Clarke himself who said that the
workings of a sufficiently advanced civilization are
indistinguishable from magic? Through this stargate our parents rush
to their graves, coming to some understanding, we hope, through a
less burdened life, more diverse experience, a more complete
encyclopedia of knowledge.

Building the stargate, of course, we see the obstacles and warts, the
lives ended, the grease on the overalls. These things don’t appear in
the movie much. And neither do we, the people who struggled to
develop new technology, build a business case, get funding. We aren’t
in the movie. Neither are our children who will build our stargate.

I am not advocating an end to aspiration here. Indeed, I wish nothing
but dissatisfaction and disgruntlement to the space industry. (How
else would we be driven to new developments?) But let’s not forget to
occasionally take the time to be amazed and dumbstruck at where we

Now, where’s that damned range modernization report I had in my hand yesterday?

Paul W. Birkeland,
Commercial space consulting

For me, “2001” began many months before the June, 1968 opening of the movie.

I am an Air Force brat, and grew up in Dayton, Ohio, my Dad’s last duty
station (Wright-Patterson AFB). Dad was retired out in 1967 with 25 years,
and we had to move from Page Manor, the Air Force housing, to an actual
house, which was behind Airway Shopping Center, some two blocks away.

I got sent to the IGA supermarket at Airway a lot — it was a two block
walk, and I got to be the gofer for stuff needed around the house.

One day in April, I was sent off to grab something from the store. So, as I
always did, I looked at the book and magazine rack at the IGA. And, being
the SF fan that I had been, then, for about five years, something caught my
eye about one of the headlines on the April, 1968 of “Life” then on the
newsstands. I opened it up to look…

…and beheld a multi-page layout on a science fiction movie called “2001: A
Space Oddessy.”

It was like being kicked in the stomach — there was that much impact.

I *think* I remembered to buy whatever it was I was sent to buy and bring
home…but I wouldn’t bet on it.

TIm Kyger

2001 was, and remains, a triumph. I enjoy telling peole that it’s the
closest thing to real spaceflight (only hearing your breathing in a space
suit, and the fact that spacecraft don’t make noise as they fly by) filmed
yet. I didn’t see the movie until well after I made my decision to become
an aerospace engineer (I was born in 1968), but it reinforced my decision.

I disagree with Michael Okuda’s theory that we’re just about where 2001
shows us, only our space station isn’t round. While the images he posted
have some similarities, the story behind each is entirely different. In
2001, the image is from a spaceliner, owned by a commercial (now closed, but
who could have seen that coming?) airline. The fact that a commercial
entity would be involved indicates some regularity of the flights, and the
directions within the spacecraft indicate that there’s no special training
required to fly. If we achieve that type of activity in the near future
under the current philosophy, (represented by the NASA image) I will be VERY
pleasantly surprised.

I hope to work with the reform which would get us there, cheering it all the

Tom Hill

2001 was a fantastic film when it was made, and
almost holds up to its initial promise today. I remember thinking when I first
saw it in around 1980 ( when I was 10 ) that 2001 was not that far off, and NASA
would never make it in time.

Considering what they have been up against though,
I think the people at NASA deserve a standing ovation for what they have
achevied. Clark and Kubrick had the advantage of fiction, but the ISS is being
built in the hard reality of the capitalist world. If anyone is disapointedby
“our” acheivements so far, then my advise is to look at some of the other sci-
fi fiction written half a century ago, ( Orwell for example ) and be thankfull
for the sanity we have managed to nuture thus far.

I hope the future will bring more success,
and more co operation between the US and Russia. Imagine what we ( the human
race ) could manage if Africa, Asia and Europe also had well developed space
industries ! We must look to the rest of the solar system
if we ever want to save this world from the chaos that runs it. Even now in a
time of relative peace, we have pointless religous wars, and petty dictators
spoiling our ( the human race ) potential.

I subscribe to the idea of a manned mission
to Mars, ( and I think a woman should have the right to be the first human being
to step onto the red planet, as a sign of solidarity to women! ). I think it is
also time to begin contemplation of a manned vessel to the asteroid belt
and beyond, to the Jovian system. Lunar bases I think are a good idea, and an
observatory on the far side of the moon would be good I think.

Finally I would add, that I think this new
century should be the time, when the whole human race finally pulls together to
help each other gain our potential. Just think of the resources America
commands, against the resources the world commands. Imagine what we could do if
we all worked together for mutual gain, rather than as we do now for own

Jan Christensen. Illustrator. Denmark.

I remember seeing the film 2001 at the Windsor
Theater in Houston with my father. The Windsor-as much else-no longer exists. But the memory of the wonder my 11 year old self felt at seeing Kubrick’s and Clarke’s vision of the future is as vivid as if it had occured yesterday. I did not doubt that thirty three years from that time, people would live on the Moon and fly to distant planets. And why not? The following year men would walk on the Moon. And that triumph would only be the beginning of a new, golden age of exploration that would last as long as the human species.

Why and how the future of 2001 was stolen from
us-and how it can be gotten back-are a couple of the great unanswered questions of our age.

Mark R. Whittington is a computer analyst and a
writer on a variety of subjects, including space policy. He is the coauthor with
his wife Chantal of Nocturne, a novel of suspense. http://members.delphi.com/aerden/web/nocturne/nocturne.htm

The reason 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY has remained so influential is that its
two creators, Clarke and Kubrick, were so hardheaded, careful and realistic
in their approach to the story’s world and its technical challenges. This
was truly the science fiction “process” at its innovative best, although it
was somewhat obscured at the time because public reaction focused on the
fantastic elements, e.g., influencing ape evolution and the psychedelic
star gate stuff at the end.

It’s a testimony to the power of the film that we even bother to compare
reality with prediction (as we did seventeen years ago for 1984). Of
course many of the movie’s elements – commercial space hotels, Moon bases
and moon shuttles, hibernation, manned interplanetary capability, AI
computer crewmembers, etc – have not come to pass. But almost all of them
are seen as useful goals that we’ll get to in our own (real world) time.

If you would like an outrageous prediction, here’s mine: Some day, perhaps
a couple of centuries from now, every conventional spacecraft and
habitation in 2001 *WILL EXIST* – in lavishly detailed recreations
assembled for love and the tourist dollar, by an affluent spacefaring
humanity with the spare time and energy to pay homage to a science fiction
classic that will still be inspiring them after all that time.

— anser

I knew I liked science by 1968, when I was six. So I was intrigued by the
appearance of a “science fiction” film called 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I didn’t
know what “science fiction” meant, exactly, but it had the word science in
it, so I was ready to take a chance. My parents were concerned that I’d not
understand it, but took me anyway.

They were right – I didn’t understand 2001. Except for (maybe) Stanley
Kubrick, who did? But that didn’t matter. The spectacular images of
spacecraft and alien places, the exotic soundtrack, and the sense of mystery
surrounding HAL and the monolith infected me with a sense of wonder about the
universe. I started paying attention to NASA missions. Clarke’s novel was my
first “grown-up” book. And I really envied the friend whose older brother had
a 2001 Moonbus model.

Looking at 2001 from 2001, it seems naive. By the time I saw 2001, our
post-Apollo future was already taking shape. NASA’s budget began to decline
in 1966, and underwent a massive $500-million cut in 1967 following the
Apollo 1 fire, the Tet Offensive, and social upheavals. Political neophyte
Tom Paine may have done more harm than good by trying to sell President Nixon
the Solar System in 1969. The 1970s saw cheaper robots replace humans as the
true space explorers.

In that, 2001 was prophetic. Had 2001 been more fully prognosticative, HAL
would have flown Discovery to Jupiter with no one on board. Instead of a
huge, costly piloted exploration spacecraft called Discovery, we have a
Discovery Program of cheap, small robotic explorers. Or perhaps 2001 *was*
prophetic in this regard. In the film we never see alien astronauts – only
their sophisticated machines, the monoliths.

I think humans will venture to other worlds, but it will be in close
partnership with machines. Humans won’t have to go, but many – the people who
feel a sense of wonder when they watch 2001 – will want to, and the machines
will make it possible. A 2001-style moon base is a given, for there are too
many useful things to do on the moon, and it’s relatively easy to reach. But
I think the machines will go first to set up the moon base and industries
that support it. That will be the prototype for machine-built living spaces
throughout the Solar System by 2101.

David S. F. Portree,
Science writer & historian,
Author of “Romance to Reality: moon & Mars plans, 1950-2000” –
Public Program Assistant, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona

Why is the real 2001 space program so bad compared with the vision in
the movie? First, you have to know that most of the movie was planned
in the 1964-65 time frame, and draws on the visions of future space
activities people had at that time. An unspoken assumption behind
those ideas was that space would continue to be a major propaganda
front in the Cold War. This is implicit in many plot elements of the
film — Floyd’s awkward conversation with the Soviet scientists, the
top security lid slapped on the monolith discovery, and the massive
deceptions about the Jupiter mission that drives HAL crazy. In the
real world, civilian space travel lost its propaganda value after we
won the moon race in 1969. The kind of massive government funding
(and top-level political attention) that would have been needed to
produce the fictional 2001 space program just didn’t continue. Instead
we got the horrible Space Shuttle — a “reusable booster” that actually
costs MORE to run than the old expendables! The only way to get to
anything like the “2001” program is to scrap the ISS, send the shuttles
to museums, and spend the money this would free up on designing a
earth-to-LEO vehicle like the Pan Am Space Clipper — cheap, reliable,
airliner-like, and privately operated on a profit-making basis.
Unfortunatly, there are so many powerful vested interests behind the
current program that this won’t happen.

The one thing about “2001” that does ring true is Heywood Floyd —
he is the spitting image of every bland organization man I’ve ever
dealt with at NASA.

Jeffrey F. Bell,
Professor, Planetary Sciences,
Univ. of Hawaii

I am certain that the main focus of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as it has mostly
been since its debut in 1968, will be on the technological visions so
beautifully depicted on screen. While I am fascinated by the visual wonder
of the film, the story of 2001: A Space Odyssey is much more magnificent. I
am particularly intrigued by the anthropological analysis of space
exploration and settlement, and 2001: A Space Odyssey was among the first
bits of media that introduced me to this unique area of study (another being
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos). The mix of wonderful music, imagery, and mystery in
the film produces in me a feeling that is hard to describe, but which
inspires me to always look ahead and beyond. Indeed, every time I see the
sweeping view of the rotating space station above the Earth, seemingly in
step with the grand music of Strauss, I get a lump in my throat. I recall
that that was the objective of Stanley Kubrick’s films: to elicit a feeling
or mood, rather than some profound message. In 2001: A Space Odyssey,
however, both he and Arthur C. Clarke managed to do both. I am indebted to
them for helping to sow the seed of wonder and passion within me. It is
because of this film and other art from around the world that I have made it
my mission in life to help make it possible for people to migrate into space.

Phil Smith,
Space Industry Analyst and freelance artist,
Futron Corporation

Another revolutionary concept in 2001 — one that we are starting to see
come to life on the Space Shuttle — is the vehicle health maintenance
system that tells you when something is about to go belly up, and how much
time you have left to use it without serious danger. In 2001, HAL predicted
(falsely, but let’s ignore his psychosis) that the AE-35 pointing control in
Discovery’s high-gain antenna would fail soon but was reliable until then.
In 1985 we saw a human do basically the same thing. Booster Officer Jenny
Howard saved the STS 51-F launch (carrying Spacelab 2) when she correctly
reasoned that a few turbopump sensors on the Main Engines were bad, rather
than the turbopumps themselves, because everything else was normal. She
inhibited shutdown of the other two engines after the center engine went out
and thus saved the crew from a transatlantic landing. Upgrades now in
development will give the Space Shuttle the same capability that we saw
implied in the AE-35 prediction in 2001.

Dave Dooling

One way we lag behind the fictional 2001 is in the use of rotating
structures for artificial gravity. In attempting to adapt humans and their
life support systems to long-term microgravity, NASA proposes to tackle an
enormous set of world-class biology problems. This is an expensive
proposition that will take decades, as anyone familiar with medical research
can tell you.

The smart alternative is to bypass the microgravity medical problem entirely
through a simple, quick, relatively inexpensive engineering
solution–rotational artificial gravity. We don’t need a facility the size
of Kubrick’s space station; NASA could conduct the basic experiments with a
Spacelab module tethered to the shuttle. A large, capable station might
consist of only five shuttle payloads–a habitation module, a docking core,
a counterweight (or a second habitation module), structural members, and
solar wings. Long interplanetary flights could use the same technology,
enabling astronauts to arrive at their destination in top physical shape
without the use of drugs or exercise drudgery.

I cannot imagine why NASA continues to ignore the simple engineering
solution in favor of the vastly more difficult, complicated, and lengthy
process of adapting human physiology to microgravity.

Patrick Underwood,
Technical Writer,
Real Time Logic, Inc. (of course I’m not speaking for my company)

Maybe Arthur Clarke envisioned large Moon bases and space stations in 2001
on the assumption that the strong initial support for the Apollo program
would be sustained in follow-on programs for the remainder of the century.
For a while there in the mid ’60’s, it seemed like space exploration was
going to receive DOD-type support. For example, the VAB at KSC was built to
support much greater Saturn V flight rates, not only for Moon missions, but
for large LEO and geostationary platforms, heavy interplanetary probes, etc.
(numerous Saturn IB flights would also be conducted). If Clarke had known
what pitiful support Apollo and other programs would actually receive,
perhaps “2001” would have only featured an ISS-class space station and an
unmanned probe (e.g. like Cassini) that remotely discovers a monolith near
Jupiter or Saturn.

Eric Fischer (Technical Writer from Pittsburgh, PA)

2001 helped focus an interest in space that has been with me since watching
the Mercury launches in grade school. The stunning scenes from space,
particularly in the Cinerama theater of the time that wrapped partially
around the audience (a sad victim to the multi-cinema era), brought us all
into space. It helped set the mood for the excitement surrounding the lunar
landings the following year, not only by helping us visualize what it was
like in space, but also energizing us in our expectations for the relatively
near future. Unfortunately other circumstances prevailed and the year 2001
dawns with less than we had been promised by the vision in the movie.

Despite this, we are going through the realization of a related, though
scaled back vision that is very exciting. I have worked the last 20 years
with the Mission Control Center in Houston, and am currently serving as a
Ground Controller (“GC”) for space shuttle ascent and entry operations. We
are running an entry simulation today for the STS-102 mission in March, and
around the corner from my console a flight control team is monitoring the
Expedition 1 crew on Alpha. Later this month we launch Atlantis, the only
shuttle so far equipped with the multi-Function Electronic Display System
(MEDS) depicted in Mike Okuda’s composite photo, carrying the US Lab module
“Destiny”. (Thanks to Mike and Rick Sternbach for the work they do on Star
Trek, and the great illustrations Mike frequently sends this way. They are
a great inspiration for many of us in the manned space program.)

The future is filled with opportunity for a whole new generation of people
that have been inspired by their own versions of “2001”, including the
visions brought be the various incarnations of Star Trek. 2001 brought us
the ability to imagine ourselves, or our children, going beyond the earth
and settling the moon and other planets. With the construction of Alpha
well underway, and talks of future lunar and/or Mars manned missions
ongoing, we can still see our children (okay, maybe grandchildren) being
part of this greatest of adventures.

William Foster, Ground Control Officer, Mission Control Center – Houston


We’ll go, but it won’t be anything like Sir A. C. Clarke predicted, any more
than it would occur in the year 2001. Granted, the year was chosen simply
for the millennium tie-in — which very few religions actually see as a new
millennium — but his timing wasn’t all that far off. I believe that within
the next 2 decades we will have a manned orbiter at the Gas Giant.

I’ve been following nanotech for quite some time and I have several
acquaintances who interpret the work as exciting, as revolutionary, as
over-dramatized, as oversimplified, as pipe-dream material, and/or as all of
the above:
…I see nanotechnology as a very possible course for the very near future.
Large corporations and national governments around the globe are working
toward the same goal here — to be the first to develop the self-replicating
molecular assembler (often referred to as the Holy Grail of nanotech):
…It is this and similar devices that will see us to the distant planets —
as well as the stars.

Dan Spires

Seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey as a kid was THE pivotal moment of my life.  I was deeply moved by the movie.  It inspired me to want to become either a director like Kubrick, an astronaut or an engineer.  I eventually became an engineer, dreaming of working on manned space flight systems and have been do so on Space Station since 1993.

What strikes me after these years and comparing it to what Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke dreamt of  is how far short of the mark ISS is.  ISS lacks both scope and imagination.  ISS is, compared to that beautiful spinning vision in 2001, a mere collection of grotesquely overpriced beer cans.

What I think is the cause of  ISS’s underachievement is the lack of courage we as a people have shown when reaching towards space.  We certainly can dream great things such as 2001, Star Trek and other movies and TV shows have exhibited.  Yet, it takes a great courage, deep commitment and a sober acceptance by us of the fact that to make those dreams a reality it will require enormous risks.  Getting from Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital lob in a Mercury capsule to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the Moon eight years later took guts.  Taking over 15 years to start building a Space Station does not.  What happened between the 60’s and now?

 I think Frank Borman said it best when talking about the Apollo years when he said “We were led by…people who don’t exist today in our society in my opinion.”  And if  ISS doesn’t match up to 2001 we should be honest with ourselves and realize why: our leaders and we as a  people don’t have what it takes to fulfill the dream of 2001.  We can, of course, but we will have to become a different kind of people to do it.



G’day Keith,

At 2 am on 1 January 2001 I opened a time capsule to myself. The
capsule, actually a plastic margerine container, had been hidden in a cupboard
in 1979 when I was 15 years old. On the lid were the faded
words “Not to be opened until the year 2001”.

Inside were a computer generated calendar of 2001, newspaper clippings
from advertisements of the re-release of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a
letter I wrote to TV Guide about “2001”, a photo of the pop group ABBA,
a valve (tube), a transistor, a capacitor, a resistor, a computer card,
a small reel of magnetic tape and a 1978 Christmas stamp.

Opening the capsule reminded me of my interest in “2001”. I remember
reading a well worn library copy of “2001” in 1977 and then later seeing
the movie when it was re-released, with six-track sound and in 70 mm.
Needless to say, coming out of the theatre I was very disappointed by
Kubrick’s ending, but amazed that in 1968 they could produce a sci-fi
film of such quality.

In some ways, “2001” was not only ahead of its time in 1968, but also of
its future. There is still a long way to go in artifical intelligence
and cryogenics, but progress is being made. A recent TV show indicated
that cooling the body by a few degrees can save lives after major
trauma, even preventing the brain from being damaged due to lack of
oxygen. AI seems to be progressing more slowly, but work in neural
networks may be a path for computers to “learn” intelligence.

Some technologies that were predicted have come true, like speech
recognition and back seat TV’s in airlines. It is easy to say that a
lack of money has prevented the rest of the film coming true. However,
space budgets for the last two decades have been quite considerable. I
think a large part if the problem are the bad decisions and management
that have plagued space exploration since Apollo.

So to the future. After the Space Station lies new reusable launch
vehicles, hopefully that will have learned the expensive lessons from
the current Space Shuttle. When that is done, will we return to the
Moon, go straight to Mars? Either is an exciting prospect which I look
forward to.

Steven S. Pietrobon, Electronic Engineer, Adelaide, Australia.

I was just 11 years old in 1968, but by the end of the year I had purchased
and assembled models of the Moonbus and the Orion III. I was hooked.
Between 1968 and 1975 I managed to see “2001” over 20 times, and I had a
dog-eared copy of Clarke’s book that travelled well.

By 1977 I was serving on the U.S.S. Skate, a nuclear submarine. As a reactor
operator and reactor technician I used to walk through the boat humming the
“Gayane Ballet Suite” (the music that was playing while Frank Poole jogged
around the inside of the ‘Discovery’). I imagined myself on a spaceship,
cruising the cosmos instead of the Pacific Ocean.

Today I’m an instructor and Senior Reactor Operator at a commerical nuclear
power plant. I still watch every minute I can of each shuttle flight on NASA
TV. Two years ago I struck up a great and lasting friendship with folks at
JSC. My whole life I’d wished for a job working directly in the space
program, and it all goes back to those Saturdays spent in a darken theater
watching the promise of a future that wasn’t that far off. When the time
comes for the application of nuclear power to a mission back to the moon or
onwards to Mars, I can only hope that I will figure out a way to get

“2001” kindled a fire inside me that has never gone out, the fire of working
towards a future where the last frontier available to mankind is ours for the
taking. We live in that future now, we just need to find the courage to
confront it.

David Hopkins, Jefferson City, MO.

The Movie 2001: A Space Odyssey transformed my life.
I was 11 in 1968 and went to see it with my parents and brother and came out
of it changed. It truly was beautiful, mysterious, intriguing and promising
for our near future. Of course, the real 2001 isn’t what we thought it would
be and there are lots of dissapointments: an important one being that there
are no Moonbases and no interplanetary spacecrafts,. a much more trivial
being that there apparently are no 2001 calendars based on the movie.
There are two very powerful images from 1968: the obvious one being the
Earthrise picture from Apollo 8 and also the bone becoming a space weapon in
2001. Both images were preceded by sceneries that enhanced them. The Apollo
8 crew was looking at a depressing , battered, deadly not-colored landscape
when, suddenly, appeared the blue living marble that was home.
In 2001, the ape-men were desperately fighting for food, as savages, when
Moonwatcher threw the bone and it became a space-platform with the first
notes of the Beautiful Blue Danube with swiftly moving spacecrafts, above
this same beautiful blue marble.
Both images hold a message: our future lies in space.

I work for an insurance company in Antwerp, Belgium (Fortis AG).

Raoul Lannoy, Antwerpen, Belgium

One of the revolutionary concepts that I saw in 2001 was the lunar surface
shuttle being designed so the command deck was at one end rather than at
the top (curiously, Fred Ordway, 2001’s “chief designer,” did not use this
approach in the Earth-Moon shuttle and opted instead for a spherical design
that backed down to the surface). Until then, all future lander concepts
were variations on the Apollo LM which (necessarily, because of its small
size) was like a terrestrial rocket, one stage above the other. The 2001
concept was the basis of the Eagle lunar spacecraft in the otherwise
abysmal “Space: 1999” TV series. Finally, in the late 1980s, designer Brand
Griffin placed the crew module at the center of the lander, and near the
lunar surface after landing, with the propulsion modules to either side. It
was an elegant, straightforward approach. So what do we get from most
manned lander designers in the 1990s? Back to the ’60s. They offer us
top-heavy lander designs that look like the Apollo LM on steroids and that
would require the astronauts to make a long, perilous ladder climb down to
the surface.

Dave Dooling, co-author, Space Travel, A History (Werhner von Braun, Frederick I. Ordway III, and Dave Dooling. New York: Harper Collins, 1985)

SpaceRef Editors:

To me, looking back upon the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”
brings to mind the sad denial of a dream that could have been.
I recall Bobby Kennedy and his quote of Bernard Shaw who
had said, “some people see things as they are and ask ‘why”,
I dream of things that could be and ask ‘why not?”

To me, that era was one where this country did dream of
doing things that were not only good for our businesses
but good for humanity. We still believed in a human destiny
beyond the confines of the Earth’s surface. We looked
forward to a time when we would have more frontiers to
discover and yes, conquer. Now, we hear about NASA’s goal as
being “faster, better, cheaper” and ponder the need for
a space program in any guise. We strive to cut the government
and its resources, and rely only on businesses to push the
frontiers. We have no goals for space, we merely muttle along.

In the late 60’s, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick looked
to the future with all its possibilities of a new horizon
off the surface of this planet. They did not foresee the
abandonment of continued space exploration as an unprofitable
venture. They were in concert with many at that time
that hoped to re-focus a war-based economy and nation
to an economy and nation focussed on expanding the
horizons of humans. They thought of different profits,
beyond the simple monetary gains. The momentum of the times
was not enough to carry us into achieving their vision
of the year 2001.

Finally, despite many computer achievements and parallels
that are inferred, we are still far from achieving the
level of computer intelligence as embodied in HAL. We have
not achieved, and are still far from, the quantum leap to
computer consciousness. Even speech recognition has been
more difficult than originally foreseen.

These are my opinions, and they do not necessarily represent
the opinions of those organizations of which I am affiliated.

Harold Geller,
Faculty, Department of Physics and Astronomy,
George Mason University,
Fairfax, Virginia
1st Vice President, Potomac Geophysical Society
Vice President, Association of Community College Educators, GMU Chapter
Media Relations Officer, ISS-AT, The Astronomical League

Finish ISS. Then build a space construction yard. Next build a base on the moon.


I think it’s kind of sad that the real 2001 does not live up to Clarke’s
science-fictional vision of that year. Nasa is struggling with tight
budgets and an aging shuttle fleet. I think that 2101 might see some of
what Clarke wrote come true, but I don’t envision anything remotely
resembling what he dreamt anytime soon.

Monty Tabor,
Inventory Control Clerk

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is obviously a “classic” and is also one of my
favorite movies. I am a retired Aerospace Engineer and spent the majority
of my career in aerospace, where I helped build, launch, and track earth
orbiting satellites.

I was also on the Apollo program as a Field Support Engineer where I helped
install and check out tracking stations in the West Indies and “Goldstone”
in the Mohave Desert. These are my space credentials and I still maintain my
interest in the space programs, especially the ISS. I hope the program and
the website remain viable and active because they are both great and I, for
one, greatly appreciate them.

Ken Bragunier, be325@lafn.org, Gardena, CA

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.