The Ships of 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey took audiences into outer space, to enjoy a trip to the moon a year before the first actual moon landing occurred.  Remembered as much for its meticulous portrayal of hardware as its characters or storyline, the Stanley Kubrick film created the template against which films would be measured for the next decade and beyond.  No longer were spacecraft shown as briefly glimpsed, blurred saucers or cigar-shaped missiles.  They became highly detailed, realistic machines that fascinated viewers worldwide.

The ships of 2001 were based on real-world technology and innovations already in development in the mid-1960s.  Author Arthur C. Clarke and filmmaker Kubrick were determined to make the ships and hardware as realistic and believable as possible, taking into account the weightlessness and long periods of inactivity and boredom that would and will be real factors in the exploration of our solar system.  Each ship was designed not with special effects in mind, but rather with sound science and achievable technologies.  The idea was to show the audience how reasonably familiar technology will bring the reality of space travel from the realm of the fantastic into everyday life, where a trip into orbit will be no more unusual than a jet flight to grandma’s house.

Kubrick then commissioned the construction of large, highly detailed models to bring that vision to life.  As a result, 2001: A Space Odyssey set a new, higher standard for filmmakers to follow.

– written by John Pickard