2001: A Space Odyssey Essay, Research Paper
The concept of space travel has been an interest to many since the beginning of time. Today, scientists are moving at a comfortable pace to expand our vast knowledge of the universe. Many authors dreamed of the possibilities while scientists tried to bring them to reality. The book “2001: A Space Odyssey,” written by Arthur C. Clarke in the 1960’s, proposed ideas about advanced space travel that took place in a time period only two years from now; however, at the current rate of the space program, mankind is nowhere near the technology showed by the book.
Clarke uses concepts of space travel that can still only be dreamed of today. Clarke, an author of the sixties, had ventured out to write a book on a subject that many people had scarce knowledge of. However, since “Myths and tales of flying to the Moon or the stars are probably as old as humankind,” many were interested (Lewis 16). People wanted to read a book that had ideas in it that were beyond the grasp of humankind. Although many of his ideas seemed impossible to accomplish, surprisingly, Clarke proposed a number of realistic ideas. For example, in 1945 Clarke proposed “using satellites to relay communications to different parts of Earth—more than 20 years before the first satellite was launched” (17). Clarke had stunned many scientists with the proposition of his satellite communication ideas. Furthermore, Clarke could recreate any space travel image of his dreams through his book. His only concern was to make the ideas as imaginable as possible. Unfortunately, scientists knew realistically “the universe is determined to throw in every road block that can be imagined” (Carroll 1). Space is much more complicated than Clarke could imagine, and modern day scientists know that.
The present day space program does not have the technology to accomplish the missions which were proposed in the book. For example, Clarke had the idea for an interstellar mission to Jupiter. “It had begun, five years ago, as Project Jupiter— the first manned round trip to the greatest of the planets” (Clarke 85). According to the book, this mission had been started two years ago from present day. The current space program cannot accomplish a mission of this calabur. However, many modern day scientists know “Interstellar travel is real” and possible (Mallove 1). Keeping this in mind, scientists have an incentive to keep advancing everyday. The current day space program is advancing one step at a time. So far, “In exploring the planets, it has been robotic technology” (Lewis 160). A manned flight to a distant planet was and still is a dream to modern day scientists. However, Clarke was able to recreate this dream and make space travel become an easy everyday process.
The space program in the book is so advanced that it is portrayed as a much more lax operation than present day. Today, the space program can only send a carefully selected group of elites to travel into space. The modern day program “. . . Demanded the selection of new types of astronauts. Pilots would still be needed to control the Space Shuttle, but different skills would be required to perform space walks, operate the Shuttle’s robot arm and deploy satellites” (Davies 146). Since missions are so expensive, they need to be fully accomplished thus requiring the best astronauts anyone can find. Furthermore, the missions found in the book were considered routine. Contrastingly, present day standards would describe them as explicit and gone about in a more careful manner. An ordinary civilian in the book “. . . Had been to Mars once, to the Moon three times, and to the various space stations more often than he could remember” (Clarke 35). The civilian had not been through the process of training or selection as is required today. Since Clarke portrayed spaceflight as an easy operation, small missions had seemed to become unimportant. When about to take off, “there was none of that old-fashioned FIVE-FOUR-THREE-TWO-ONE-ZERO business” (39). Launches in the book were much more sophisticated and relaxed. However, since launches today still use the countdown, the book seems to refer to present day launches as “old-fashioned” (39). While the book makes the present day space program seem old fashioned, it also makes the modern day outer space structures seem out of date.
Since the book sets such high standards for outer space structures, present day space stations are unlikely to match the book’s expectations by the year 2001. Clarke created fictional space stations that were the nerve centers for spaceflight. The impressive “. . . base was a closed system, like a tiny working model of Earth itself” (Clarke 56). The stations had become places away from earth for humankind to flourish. Today, the concept and use of space stations are still in their infancy. Modern day scientists are having “. . . inspired visions of travel to the Moon for longer periods—months or years—and residence there in either small bases or large colonies” (Lewis 207). Once the space program accomplishes these stations there would be colonists mining for lunar resources—hydrogen, helium or minerals— for commercial or industrial uses on Earth or Space (207). Similarly, Clarke had proposed the use of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus (Clarke 56). Clarke uses ideas of space stations in the book that are too advanced to bring to reality, similarly, he did the same with space travel.
Although the current space program is making forward progress in space travel, it is still distant from achieving certain technologies as seen in the book. Unfortunately, at times many modern day scientists tend to view with pessimism the idea of advancing space travel. Many feel “If our target is a galaxy on the outer edge of the universe, and the universe is expanding according to the established facts, the target may be receding at a rate that is in excess of the rocket velocity” (Carroll 1). Although these findings can keep further space travel at a stand-still, Clarke did not have to take any of these facts into consideration. Clarke did not have to worry about possible barriers when writing about space travel. He was able to write about a character being frozen “when the electrodes had been attached to his forehead, and the sleep-generator had started to pulse, he had seen a brief display of kaleidoscopic patterns and drifting stars. He had never felt the infections, still less the first touch of cold as his body temperature was reduced to only a few degrees above freezing” (Clarke 88). This presently incomprehensible task allowed the character to be frozen for the lengthy flight to Jupiter. Furthermore, with ideas already proposed about space travel, scientists are only facing the difficult task of bringing them to life. So far “Not only are the first emissaries to the stars already under way, but also many thinkers have devoted considerable attention to finding ingenious ways to make trips to the stars by craft much fleeter than these early “slow boats” (Lewis 18). The plans these visionaries have developed in the past three decades are impressive (18). Even though space technology of present day is not as advanced as shown by Clarke, scientists are making a positive effort in expanding humankind’ knowledge to meet the dreams of many.
At the current rate of the space program, mankind is nowhere near bringing to reality the ideas proposed by Arthur C. Clarke. Although the worlds’ knowledge keeps increasing, the sheer power of imagination remains the strongest in its class. With that in mind, can the question of mankind expanding the space program to meet authors’ expectations ever be answered?
Carroll, Robert L. “Arcturus by Dawn The Future of Space Travel.” Available Online @ http://pride-net.com/physics/ArcturusByDawn/abyd3.htm
Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
Davies J.K. Space Exploration. New York: W & R Chambers Ltd., 1992.
Lewis, Cathleen S., Valerie Neal, and Frank H. Winter. Spaceflight. New York: Ligature, Inc., 1995.
Mallove, Eugene, and Gregory Matloff. The Starflight Handbook. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1989.