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1968 Science Fiction is Today's Reality
October 21, 2014

The space station from 2001 along with the real International Space Station - movie image courtesy A.M.P.A.S. The space station from 2001, top, and the International Space Station. Movie image courtesy A.M.P.A.S.
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images of space exercise from 2001:A Space Odyssey and the International Space Station - movie image courtesy A.M.P.A.S. A fictional astronaut jogs on the 2001 station, left. NASA astronaut Suni Williams, right, ran the Boston Marathon in orbit on the International Space Station. Movie image courtesy A.M.P.A.S.
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flat screen monitors on ISS
As depicted originally in 2001, astronauts now regularly use an array of flat screen monitors during spacecraft dockings and other events. Credit: NASA

Spacewalk images from 2001 and the International Space Station - movie image courtesy A.M.P.A.S. Astronauts suited up for a spacewalk in 2001, top, and on the International Space Station. Movie image courtesy A.M.P.A.S.
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The futuristic epic 2001: A Space Odyssey influenced many to fall in love with the limitless possibilities of space exploration. The movie sparked imaginations and provided a realistic preview of what our future in space might look like.

When 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered more than 45 years ago, living and working in space full time was science fiction. Today, resident crew members are aboard the International Space Station 365 days a year operating one of the most complex engineering projects in history. The station is helping us push the boundaries of 21st century science, technology and engineering.

In 2008, NASA joined in the film's 40th anniversary celebrations, sending down a special message from orbit that was played during the  anniversary screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Actor Tom Hanks gave an introduction at the special event. Following the screening, actors Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood and Daniel Richter, Oscar®-nominated visual effects wizard Douglas Trumbull and special effects artist Bruce Logan discussed their work on the film.

The film was a creative collaboration by director Stanley Kubrick and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. The two men embarked on a creative collaboration: a novel and a screenplay inspired by Clarke's 1950 short story "The Sentinel."

2001: A Space Odyssey shows an imagined version of our future in space, some of which has come to pass:

  • One of the most notable visions is the large, low Earth orbiting, revolving space station in the film. Although the shape is different, today's space station is permanently crewed and international.
  • Flat-screen computer monitors that were unheard of in 1968 are now commonly used on the space station.
  • The film imagines glass cockpits in spacecraft, which were present on the flight deck of the space shuttle.
  • The film also envisions in-flight entertainment in space. Today there are DVDs, iPods and computers with e-mail access.
  • Another famous scene from the movie depicts an astronaut jogging in space. Aboard the International Space Station, exercise in space is routine. In April 2007, 210 miles above Earth, astronaut Sunita Williams ran the Boston Marathon while in orbit.

Although some of the things in the film are not yet realities, some of them are in the works. For example, NASA is working to extend humanity's presence beyond low-earth orbit, embarking on an ambitious journey to Mars that should see humans on the Red Planet in the 2030s.  Other ventures in space, such as hotels in orbit and routine tourist space travel are being planned by commercial spaceflight companies.

We are proud to be part of the wonderful future that visionaries such as Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick imagined more than 45 years ago.

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Page Last Updated: October 21st, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator