Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Other 2001

2001 v3 Orion Station V
2001: Aries at Clavius #3
Moon Bus and TMA
I've written about it before, but I was reminded just now by a discussion thread at Orbiter-forum of one of the most amazing add-ons ever created for Orbiter, World of 2001 (be sure to download and watch the 3 minute video "Floyd's Journey" to get an idea of the quality of this add-on). In 1968, just as Apollo astronauts were about to reach the Moon, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke showed us the astounding potential of our space future in their film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This huge and multi-faceted add-on by the team of Erik Anderson (Sputnik), Alain Hosking (80mileshigh), and Wolfgang Schwarz (Nautilus) allows you to experience some of that world first-hand. It includes most of the space vehicles and bases from the film plus others that were only mentioned in the script or the book. It does not include the Discovery and related vessels which are available in a separate add-on by David Bartles. You also need to import your own Strauss waltzes to play through Orbiter Sound.

The "world of 2001" shown in the film is a world that could have come to pass (in some form) if we had continued to invest in space at the rate of the Apollo era for 20 more years. That was not sustainable, although the fact that Pan Am was operating some of the spacecraft in the film suggests that commercial interests might have played a big role once the necessary infrastructure was in place. In the film, the Soviet Union and presumably the Cold War were still going strong, and that was what drove Apollo, though it's hard to imagine a space race that was a proxy for war lasting long enough to create the level of space activities seen in 2001 (without a real war occurring somewhere in there) if that was the main driver. Of course they couldn’t know in 1968 what would happen to the Soviet Union by the late 1980's. And of course we did have Vietnam as another sort of proxy for the conflict between the US and USSR (or between communism and the West).

I may be just a romantic space geek, but I sure would have preferred Kubrick's 2001 to the crappy 2001 we ended up experiencing. Now it will probably take until 2051 to get to 2001, but with private space and other governments' help (through cooperation and/or competition), maybe we'll still get there.

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