When my STS-98 crew launched into orbit on February 7, 2001—the first human space launch of the millennium—I marked the milestone by carrying with me two personal mementos of the landmark Stanly Kubrick science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
To be sure, our space shuttle Atlantis did not have the capabilities the 1968 film predicted for spaceships of the “future.” Atlantis could not leave Earth orbit; the film’s Discovery could voyage to Jupiter. Our shuttle was a fragile, if versatile, experimental space plane; the Pan Am shuttle of the film was a passenger-carrying stiletto crewed by impeccably uniformed flight attendants. Although we were headed for a space station that day in 2001, it hardly approached the sophistication of the giant, rotating station seen in the film. About the only edge Atlantis held over 2001’s spacecraft was that our space toilet was much simpler to operate than the version portrayed in the movie.
Just follow Dr. Clarke’s prescription: ‘See the movie, read the book…repeat as often as necessary.’
While most of our space technology has not advanced at the pace portrayed in 2001, it nevertheless had an outsized impact on my interest in a space career. A Life magazine story had prepared me for some of the amazing visuals in the film, but seeing it on an 8th grade field trip to Baltimore’s Charles Theater left me breathless. I was stunned by the movie’s sweeping timeline, leaping from the origins of humanity to a 21st-century expedition to the remotest reaches of space. Hoping to capture some record of the movie’s special effects, I shot an entire roll of film during the screening with my Brownie box camera—of course, none of the shots turned out. Awed by the sleek monolith, the taciturn astronauts, and Kubrick’s dazzling mind-trip across the universe, I knew I had to become a space explorer myself.
Read more here: AirAndSpace
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