In 1968 Arthur C. Clarke published 2001: A Space Odyssey. He worked on the book with Stanley Kubrick during the making of the movie by the same name. The book and movie are based on the series of short stories published by Clarke including The Sentinel written in 1948 for a competition by the BBC.
The book covers mankind’s development while an unseen alien race spurs their evolution. A black monolith lands on Earth on the equator in ancient Africa in three million B. C. There it influences the man-apes to develop the use of tools and leads them to learn to kill for food to survive and thrive.
By the year 1999, mankind has developed space travel and had a base on the moon. There they unearth another monolith. When the rays of the sun hit this one, it sends out a message across the Solar System to Saturn’s moon, Japetus. The spaceship Discovery One is sent to search for the source of the message before a more advanced society can do damage to mankind.
Along the way, the crew is attacked by the AI on the ship, HAL. The only survivor, David Bowman, shuts down the computer and continues the mission to Japetus where he finds the source of the monoliths is a Star Gate. He passes through the Star Gate and becomes on omnipotent being that stops a missile on a course to Earth, saving all of mankind. After he has completed his mission and achieved the highest realms a sentient being can reach, he wonders what is next.
2001: A Space Odyssey opens with a ten million-year-old-drought. The dinosaurs are gone, and the man-apes are surviving on the equator in what will one day be Africa. Dawn comes and Moon-Watcher, one of the man-apes, notices that his father died during the night. He carries the man’s corpse out of the cave and then begins to look for berries accompanied by other men from the caves. Moon – Watch is the only man who can walk upright. They often starve without even thinking about the antelope standing nearby who would be a good source for food. At the stream, his small group met the larger group they call “The Others.” The two groups wave their arms at each other and growl.
Suddenly a New Rock lands near their cave. Moon-Watcher checks it out and finds it not edible. He loses interest and leaves, but the rest of the man-apes stop to stare at it. What they don’t know is that while they are watching it, it is watching them. They are examined and they are made to perform actions to check their progress. The Rock made one of the younger man-apes tie a knot. The first one on Earth. Moon-Watcher is made to throw a rock at a target. The Rock rewarded them with either pleasure or punishes with pain.
Days pass and the man-apes receive more training from The Rock. Moon-Watcher learns to use a rock to kill a pig and provide food for the tribe. As more time passes the man-apes learn to use more tools, and how to store food for future use. A leopard tries to attack the tribe and the man-apes use their tools to defend themselves. They cut the head off the leopard and waved it at the rival tribe. One Ear, the leader of the Others, faced Moon-Watcher as he waved the trophy at him. When he didn’t run in fear like the rest of the tribe, Moon-Watcher hit him on the head and killed him. Then he felt like he was the “master of the world,” and wonders what he should do next.
A hundred thousand years since the crystals landed in Africa show little advancement in the Man-Apes. “They had invented nothing.” But, they were advancing physically. Their teeth and jaw became smaller and more refined as they made use of their tools. Their jaws were helping them move closer to speech. The years of ice ages pass as the Man-Apes develop in their physical and mental abilities. Now that they had speech they could pass on ideas and share knowledge with each other. Their tools became more powerful. As time passed, they developed writing, philosophy, and religion. But, what jumped ahead fastest in development was the weapons. Spears, to guns, to guided missiles and nuclear warheads.
Space travel has become commonplace. Dr. Heywood Floyd has traveled to Earth’s moon three times and Mars once, but it still excites him. He is pushing his way through reporters while they ask him about reports of an epidemic on the moon. He refuses to comment. After a quick flight to Space Station One, Floyd waits in the lounge area for a half and hour for his flight to the moon. While waiting he is approached by Dr. Dimitri Moisevitch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Science. He questions Floyd on the quarantine of the U. S. part of the moon, and about the epidemic. Floyd says he can’t tell him anything and acts ignorant when asked about “TMA – 1.”
On the flight to the moon, Floyd catches up on the news with his “Newspad.” Soon Floyd’s shuttle lands in Clavius, on of the moon’s largest craters and home to the U.S. base. It is a biosphere completely independent and supporting human life. Floyd is taken by Ralph Halvorson, the man in charge of this base, to his office. In his office, Halvorson briefs Floyd on TMA – 1 and the uneasiness of the inhabitants of the moon. Floyd is eager to see TMA – 1 for himself.
TMA – 1 or Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One, was found in the Tycho Crater. It is a large, smoothly cut black slab that predates humans. They have determined it is three million years old. Dr. Michaels tells him all about it when Floyd arrives. Floyd promptly dons a space suit so he can get closer to the slab. Suddenly the sun hits it for the first time in over three million years and it lets out a loud piercing noise. The energy pattern from this slab was sent out to the far reaches of the galaxy and heard by the Deep Space Monitor seventy-nine, one hundred million miles from Earth. The Radiation Forecaster on Earth read the reports and noticed that the noise went past the Deep Space Monitor and on out into the universe.
With the advances in human hibernation, the proposed flight of the Discovery to Jupiter was stretched to Saturn. The crew is planning a seven-year mission with the ship on a one-way trip and the Discovery II, that was under construction, picking them up and returning them to Earth. David Bowman had only left thirty days prior but was already feeling homesick. He and Frank Poole were the only two awake on the ship while three astronauts hibernated.
The highly advanced ship was equipped with an AI, or artificial intelligence, called HAL for Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer, His almost human brain was responsible for maintaining the ship. He was equipped with a calming voice that allowed him to communicate to the crew. The AI was the only one who knew the true purpose of the journey. He is programmed to continue the mission even if all the humans don’t.
The humans slept in rotating shifts, and their duties were well regulated. Part of the ship was built with gravity to help in eating. Every day passed much like the ones before. When the ship passed through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, they came close enough to an asteroid to collect data. As they neared Jupiter, they gathered data on the moons. Bowman found the low frequencies emitted from Jupiter to be amazing since they could not be human.
As they rounded Jupiter, they would release two probes on the far side to gather data from Jupiter’s surface. While on the far side they would be out of range of Earth’s radio. There they planned to use the gravitational field of Jupiter to propel them to Saturn.
The first probe burned up immediately and the second lasted a bit longer. The men avidly watched the pictures from Jupiter.
Time passes, and HAL interrupts Poole’s viewing of his birthday message from his family on Earth to tell him the AE – 35 is malfunctioning. The component is located outside the ship, and he has seventy-two hours to replace it. When they radio Earth with the problem they are advised to make a telecast about the reasons for a method for repair. They say in their message that it keeps their antenna in place for radio transmissions and the repair should be routine.
Poole puts on a suit and uses an extravehicular capsule to make the repair and returns safely to the Discovery. But, when the men test the component they find it is not damaged. Before the can arrive at an answer, they are contacted by Mission Control. They confirm that the AE – 35 if functional and think the problem may lie with HAL. They are advised to monitor the AI carefully and shut it down if further problems persist. They will hand over the control to the computers at Mission Control.
Not long after, HAL reports problems with the new AE – 35. When questioned by Bowman how this is possible, HAL says his is unsure, but it must be replaced. Hours pass and the crew receive a message from Mission Control with instructions on shutting down HAL, which they have determined is malfunctioning, and transfer control to Mission Control. But, the transmission stops part way, and HAL blames the faulty AE – 35. Bowman apologizes to HAL for doubting his diagnosis, and they try to manually fix the antenna. They are unable to repair it so the two men wonder how they will contact Earth.
Poole goes outside to remove the AE – 35 and bring it in for examination. He leaves the extravehicular capsule called “Betty” and moves to examine the component. Poole requests HAL to move Betty around so he can have more light, but instead Betty is moving too close. Poole screams at HAL to stop Betty but, it is too late, and his suit is ripped. Bowman hears the final screams of Poole on the radio as he dies.
Bowman knows that in a case of the loss of one of the men another crewman is to be awakened from hibernation. He wants HAL to give him control of waking them, but HAL argues. Finally, Bowman threatens to shut HAL down and the AI relents. As Bowman is waking the crewmen, the airlock doors begin to open.
Since only HAL and the three hibernating crewmen know the true mission, he feels threatened by Bowman and decides to complete the mission without the aid of humans. The ship is quickly losing oxygen and Bowman makes his way to an emergency supply. Bowman travels through the innards of the ship and passes the three crewmen who are now dead. He finds the control panel and unhooks the wires while HAL begs him to stop.
After Bowman gains control of the ship and closes the air locks he contacts Earth. This is when he learns his true mission. He learns about TMA – 1 and that scientists think it proves there is intelligent life out there. They tell him that the slab emitted waves toward Saturn. He is to go to study Japetus, one of Saturn’s moons which are six times brighter on one side of its orbit. Bowman is given orders to learn if there is still intelligent life on Japetus and if so are they friendly. This information could be vital to the safety of the human race.
Time passes and Bowman has restored the ship back to working order. He reasons that HAL failed because of an overwhelming feeling of guilt for not telling them about the actual mission. Scientists have speculated on the extraterrestrial, or E. T.’s, and where they are from. They want to know if they will return to Earth and what their intentions are if so. Some of the scientists argue that the E.T.’s must have come from inside the solar system because it would be impossible to travel far enough otherwise. But, some say they could have traveled through wormholes that don’t rely on the laws of physics.
Bowman tries to maintain some sanity as he is alone for months. He realizes he will be a representative for Earth and must do his duty. Finally, the Discovery reaches the orbit of Saturn. It must lower its speed and become a satellite to rendezvous with Japetus. Bowman knows that the window is small and he cannot miss it or he will not reach it in this life time. He completes the maneuvers and begins to orbit Japetus. There Bowman discovers a large black slab on its surface at least a mile high.
“Call it the Star Gate.” It had been on Japetus in orbit around Saturn for three million years waiting to be discovered. An extraterrestrial civilization left it behind on their travels around the universe. Its purpose was to help developing life to move forward. Earth was only one of the worlds they helped to develop their evolution. The E. T.’s that developed these Star Gates had already reached the evolutionary scale of outgrowing their bodies and transferring their minds into the machines. Thus they were free from matter and time.
Bowman tried to send signals to communicate with the Gate, but when that didn’t work he planned to take an extravehicular pod to investigate further. But, when the pod leaves the Discovery and gets close, the Gate activated the orders given to it three million years ago. At first, he couldn’t find a way in, then it seemed to open and he reported to Mission Control that it was hollow. Then he says it is full of stars. The Star Gate opens then closes and disappears from Japetus.
For Bowman time begins to travel strangely. He can see stars rushing past him, but the end of the Star Gate never gets closer. His onboard clock slows down and then stops. Unsure of how much time passes Bowman begins to feel extremely calm. He passes through an aperture and comes out over a huge world with a labyrinth of buildings on the ground. Above him, the sky is white with black stars.
Suddenly his pod is pulled into one of the black stars. When he is released Bowman sees stars all around him. When he looks backspace he came through is replaced with stars as if it is being repaired. Soon his pod is descending towards a huge red sun. Bowman is surprised to notice the heat does not affect him as he moves closer. Realizing that he should have been demolished at such speeds Bowman comes to understand he is being protected. After going through what appears to be thousands of beads in the flames, Bowman finds his pod sitting on the floor of a nice hotel suite.
The room has all the accouterments of Earth, including food and a refrigerator. The only thing that doesn’t fit it his pod. The food is a blue pudding-like goo, that tastes fairly good. He sees that the books have titles he recognizes from Earth but the contents are blank. Bowman lays down on the bed and turns on the television. He sees the programs are about two years out of date. He begins to reason that the room was constructed from television programs in order to make a human feel comfortable. Finally, he turns off the light and goes to sleep.
As he sleeps, Bowman’s brain is drained of all his memories. He is reborn as an immortal being. He begins to see that he doesn’t need the Star Gate to travel through space. With the incredible knowledge, he knows he is protected and will never be alone. He travels with his consciousness and sees a deadly missile headed to Earth. With a thought he destroys it. Then he thinks about himself as the “master of the world,” and wonders what he should do next.
HAL – The name for the Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer or HAL 9000 computer. HAL is an Artificial Intelligence used by the spaceship, Discovery as the “brain and nervous system of the ship.” As HAL becomes self-conscious he also begins to feel guilt. HAL has become friends with the crew members and feels guilty because he knows what their true mission is, while the crewmen don’t. When he hears the crews plan to shut him down, he sees it as his demise. HAL kills the sleeping crew members and then kills Frank Poole. When he tries to kill David Bowman, he is not successful, and David shuts him off.
David Bowman – An astronaut on the ship, Discovery. He is one of the two crew members that are chosen to stay awake through most of the trip to Saturn. He is highly disciplined which is what saves his sanity when he was left alone. When HAL kills everyone else and tries to kill David, he manages to get to the oxygen reserve and then shut HAL off. Afterward, David continues the mission to find the source of the black rock that was sent to Earth and the one found on the moon, TMA – 1. When he passes through the “Star Gate” David melds with the minds there and stops the deadly missile headed to Earth. From there he evolves into an eternal being without a body as the creatures that sent the ‘rocks’ became.
Frank Poole – An astronaut assigned to Discovery. He was chosen to remain out of hibernation during the trip to Saturn. He is the mechanic and executes the repairs for the ship. Whenever he takes the extravehicular pod outside the ship to make a repair, HAL uses the pod to kill him.
Moon-Watcher – In the beginning of the book, he is a primitive man-ape. He is one of the first of his kind to walk upright. His ability to use his mind and inherent mechanical aptitude to figure out how to transfer the tools The Rock teaches him how to use the weapons to bring home more food and achieve dominance over the rest of his tribe and make his tribe the most powerful of the tribes in the first part of the world to warm, the equator in Africa. At first, he withstands the power of The Rock, but finally gives in and learns to throw a rock with accuracy.
Dr. Heywood Floyd – Dr. Floyd is a bureaucrat who is sent to the moon to investigate the Black Monolith that was found named Tycho Magnetic Anomaly – One or TMA – 1. He is a good family man. In his time, 2001, space shuttles from Earth to the colony that has settled on the moon. As a senior government official, he was the choice to make the call when a new anomaly is unearthed in the Tycho Crater on the moon. When the sun hits the monolith, it sends out a message to the creatures that sent it out to push intelligent life up on the evolutionary scale.
Arthur C. Clarke Biography
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was born on December 16, 1917, in Minehead, Somerset, England. He wore many hats throughout his life including inventor, undersea explorer, television host and writer of science fiction, science, and futuristic concepts. Many of his prognostications shown in his books have come to pass. His science essays were including in various popular magazines throughout his life. In 1961 he was awarded the Kalinga Prize because his writings made science become more popular. Clarke was given the name, “Prophet of the Space Age.” Along with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, he was named one of the “Big Three” of science fiction.
In 1934 Clarke joined the British Interplanetary Society, and in 1945 he proposed a satellite communication system which won him the Franklin Institute’s, Stuart Ballantine Medal. During the years of 1946 – 47 and again in 1951 – 53 Clarke became the Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society.
After relocating in Sri Lanka in 1956 to follow his interests in scuba diving, Clarke discovered the underwater ruins of the ancient Koneswaram temple in Trincomalee. In the 1980’s he hosted Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World television shows.
In 1998 he was knighted, and in 2005 he was given the Sri Lankabhimanya, Sri Lanks’s highest civil honor.
As a child in Minehead, Clarke spent his evenings on the farm stargazing and reading old American science fiction pulp magazines. During his teen years, he became a member of the Junior Astronomical Association contributing to the society’s journal, Urania. He was instrumental in the journal adding the Astronautics Section. He wrote articles on spacecraft and space travel.
He was a radar specialist during the Second World War as a member of the Royal Air Force. He was involved in the early warning radar defense system which helped to win the Battle of Britain. By the end of his service, he had moved up to the rank of flight lieutenant.
When the war was over Clarke earned his first class degree in mathematics and physics from the King’s College in London. After college, he worked as an assistant editor of Physics Abstracts.
Because of a paper, he wrote that was privately circulated among the core technical members of the British Interplanetary Society in 1945 that was published in the Wireless World the geostationary orbit above the equator is officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union as a Clarke Orbit. Then on July 20, 1969, Clarke was the commentator for CBS for the Apollo 11 moon landing.
During an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1974. he accurately predicted online banking, online shopping and other things that are normal life now. He predicted that we would take the computer as much for granted as the people of the 70’s took the telephone.
In 1986 Clarke became the Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, and in 1989 he was given the Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Clarke was made a Knight Bachelor for services to literature in 2000.
Because of his post-polio defects, Clarke’s last years were spent with a halting speech and limited abilities to travel. Just hours before his death a massive gamma-ray burst reached Earth. The light had taken 7.5 billion years to reach the Earth and was the farthest object seen from Earth with the naked eye. It was named “The Clarke Event.”