Discovery launching an EVA pod
|2001: A Space Odyssey|
|Cavradyne Plasma Propulsion Engines|
United States Spacecraft Discovery One is a fictional spaceship that appears in the Space Odyssey series, including the motion pictures 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. It is a nuclear-powered interplanetary spaceship operated in part by the HAL 9000 (heuristic algorithmic computer) artificial intelligence.
This spaceship is founded on solidly conceived, yet unrealized science. One major concession was made in its appearance for the purpose of reducing confusion, and this was to eliminate the huge cooling "wings" which would be needed to radiate the heat produced by its hypothetical thermonuclear propulsion system. The producer and director Stanley Kubrick thought that the audiences might interpret the wings as meaning that the spacecraft was intended to fly through an atmosphere.
The Discovery One was named after Captain Robert Scott's sailing ship RRS Discovery, which was launched in 1901. Writer Arthur C. Clarke used to visit this ship when it was moored in London. It shares its name with a real spacecraft, the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103).
In the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Discovery One is described as being about 460 feet (140 m) long (the 2010 movie mentions 800 feet) and powered by a nuclear plasma drive. 275 feet (84 meters) of tankage and structure separate the spherical part of the spaceship where the crew quarters, the computer, flight controls, small auxiliary craft, and instrumentation are located. In the crew's centrifuge, the crewmen would have enjoyed Moon-like gravitational conditions. This would be where they spend most of their time, and where the three hibernating astronauts rested in their compartments. The piloting, navigation, and other occasional tasks could take place in the zero-gravity command module.
Other sections of the crewmen's sphere would include the pod bay, where three one-man repair and inspection craft would be kept, and the spaceship's primary HAL 9000 mainframe computer with its level-upon-level of memory storage and digital processing units. Because of its lack of aerodynamic design and its immense size, the Discovery One would be assembled in and launched from orbit around the Earth. As described in the novel, the Discovery One was originally intended to survey the Jovian system, but its space mission was lengthened to go all the way to Saturn to investigate the destination of the signal from the black monolith at the crater Tycho. As a result, its space mission became a one-way spaceflight to Saturn and its moon Iapetus. After investigating alien artifacts at Saturn and Iapetus, the preliminary plan is for all five members of the crew to enter suspended animation for an indefinite period of time. Eventually, it is hoped that a much larger and more powerful spaceship, Discovery Two, would be built so that it would fly from the Earth to Iapetus, rescue the five astronauts, and then make the long voyage home with everyone in hibernation.
The ship's centrifuge was a spinning band of deck, mounted inside the crew compartment. The centrifugal force created by its spin simulated the effects of gravity. It was the primary living and work area, featuring consoles, panels, screens, and devices. In the movie, there was Earth gravity in the centrifuge. At all other points on the ship, including the command bridge crew members used velcro shoes to attach themselves to the floor. There was an automated kitchen developed with the assistance of General Mills; a ship-to-Earth communications center; a complete medical section where the astronauts undergo regular automated checkups (results were displayed and recorded, and diagnosis of deficiencies given directly on a readout screen.)
The Discovery is described as a very large ship that could be handled by only two astronauts (David Bowman and Frank Poole), along with the HAL 9000. In the book IBM predicted that computer development would have advanced to such an extent that the mission could be undertaken with all the astronauts placed in hibernation. It was said to be desired, however, that regular communications be maintained throughout the voyage between the pilot and copilot and mission control back on Earth. During communication, account was taken of the elapsed time for electromagnetic waves crossing space between the spaceship and the Earth. For example, Poole is depicted watching a prerecorded birthday message from his family, rather than interacting with them in real time. Such a conversation is not possible because messages take over 30 minutes to transmit between Jupiter and Earth. Naturally, this time would depend on the relative positions of the bodies in the Solar System at any given moment.
The fate of the Discovery
After the malfunction of HAL 9000, Bowman deactivates the malfunctioning computer and thus effectively isolates himself on-board the Discovery. In the movie, when the spacecraft arrives at Jupiter, it encounters TMA-1's considerably larger cousin, 'Big Brother', or 'TMA-2', at the L1 point between Jupiter and Io. The novel is basically the same, with Discovery in orbit around Saturn's moon Iapetus. Bowman leaves Discovery to examine the monolith and is taken inside it. Discovery is abandoned.
In the novel 2010: Odyssey Two, set nine years after the events of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which follows the movie ending rather than the novel, a joint Soviet-US mission (including Heywood Floyd) travels to Jupiter aboard the spacecraft Alexei Leonov to investigate the mysteries surrounding the 2001 mission, believing that Discovery harbors many of the answers. Leonov docks with Discovery, reactivates the on-board systems, and stabilizes its orbit around Io. Hal's creator, Dr. Chandra, is sent aboard to reactivate the HAL 9000 computer and ascertain any information he can regarding the previous mission.
Later on, an apparition of Dave Bowman appears, warning Floyd that Leonov must leave Jupiter within two days. Floyd asks what will happen at that time, and Bowman replies, 'Something wonderful'. Floyd has difficulty convincing the rest of the crew, at first, but a dark spot on Jupiter begins to form and starts growing. HAL's telescope observations reveal that the “Great Black Spot” is in fact a vast population of monoliths, increasing at a geometric rate. (The film accelerates the pace, both shortening Bowman's deadline to two days and making the spot grow faster.)
Initially it was planned to inject Discovery on an Earth-bound trajectory (though it would not arrive for some years); however, when faced with Bowman's warning, the Leonov crew devises a plan to use Discovery as a 'booster rocket', enabling them to return to Earth ahead of schedule, but leaving Discovery in a wide orbit of Jupiter. The crew worries that Hal will have the same neuroses on discovering that he will be abandoned yet again, and Chandra must convince HAL that the human crew must leave.
Detaching itself from Discovery, Leonov makes a hasty exit from the Jupiter system, just in time to witness the swarm of Monoliths engulf Jupiter. Through a mechanism that the novel only partially explains, these monoliths increase Jupiter's density until the planet achieves nuclear fusion, becoming a small star.
As Leonov leaves Jupiter, Bowman instructs HAL to begin repeatedly broadcasting the message:
The new star, which Earth eventually dubs "Lucifer", destroys Discovery. HAL is transformed into the same kind of life form as David Bowman and becomes Bowman's companion.
Official Name: USSC Discovery One
USSA "Registration Number": XD-1
Overall Length: 140.1 m
Overall Beam: 16.7 m
Overall Draft: 17 m
Command Module Diameter: 16.5 m
Reactor Module Length: 32.2 m
Reactor Module Draft: 8.8 m
Mass: 5,440 tonnes
Life Support: (two men, out of hibernation): 90 months
Engine Type (from the novel): Nuclear-powered magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters. Propellant - ammonia (primary) and hydrogen (Trans-Jovian injection).
Suspended Animation System: Meditech 712-R Hibernacula (3 Centrifuge, 5 Medical Level)
Pod Bay features: Three each Pod turntable Base, Extension motor, Extension Platform, Outer hull door, Space suit rack. Test bench with two LCD screens and HAL 9000 terminal. Two large emergency oxygen bottles. Nine small emergency oxygen bottles. Circuit Breaker Box. Manual control station with HAL 9000 terminal, Six LCD screens, and full control set.
Pod Bay Deck: Along with the Pod Bay, the Pod Bay Deck also features an emergency airlock, circuitry storage bay, two fresh water tanks, a maintenance equipment room, an emergency shelter and space suit rack, emergency batteries for the centrifuge and pod bay, and a zero-g toilet.
Living Module: Centrifuge, Magnetic-Drive type. 11.6 m. diameter. Rotation Rate 3 RPM. Living Module Control Stations: 12-screen HAL 9000 interface/ communications module, Nuclear reactor monitoring station, Remote probe control, Radar mapping station, climate control, and Revival Monitoring Station.
Living Module Habitation Features: Sanitary module, (Shower, Sink, Waste water recycling Control) Three Meditech 712-R Hibernacula, Sun-ray tanning station, Water closet (Head), Three Circuit breaker panels. One emergency space suit locker, Two spare part lockers, Three clothing lockers.
Command Deck: The Command Deck includes the cockpit, zero-g astronomy lab, zero-g sciences lab, two fresh water tanks, six-spacesuit recharge unit, a pre-launch personnel clearance area, the circuit breaker room, and a zero-g toilet. The Command Deck also includes all HAL 9000 related systems (see below).
HAL 9000 systems: Logic memory center, auxiliary power unit, computer climate regulation system, autonomic systems control center, and reactor control system.
Central Communications Complex: Discovery One's central communications complex is mounted atop the seventh fuel module aft of the command section. The main audio-visual communications antenna measures 4.13 meters in diameter. Both telemetry antennas measure 1.26 meters across. The entire assembly can be swiveled 360 degrees and aimed upwards or downwards at any angle between 0 and 285 degrees.
- David Bowman (Mission Commander)
- Frank Poole (Deputy Commander)
- Victor F. Kaminsky (Survey Team Leader) [Geophysicist in the novel]
- Jack R. Kimball (Geophysicist) [Peter Whitehead/Survey Team Leader in the novel]
- Charles Hunter (Astrophysicist)
In popular culture
Space: 1999 model maker Martin Bower, just after seeing 2001 at age sixteen, designed and built the Guadalcanal spacecraft based upon the Discovery. He later used it for the Year One episodes "Alpha Child", "War Games", "The Last Enemy" (as the Deltan battleship, inspired to the bomber), and "Dragon's Domain", and for the Year Two episode "The Metamorph".
- Arthur C Clarke The Lost Worlds of 2001, Signet, 1972