Discovery One

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Discovery One
Discovery launching an EVA pod
First appearance2001: A Space Odyssey
Last appearance2010: The Year We Make Contact
AffiliationUnited States
Auxiliary vehiclesEVA Pods
General characteristics
PropulsionCavradyne Plasma Propulsion Engines
PowerNuclear reactor
Mass5,440 tonnes
Length140.1 m
Width16.7 m
Height17 m

The United States Spacecraft Discovery One is a fictional spaceship featured in the first two novels of the Space Odyssey series, and in the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. The ship is a nuclear-powered interplanetary spaceship, crewed by two men and controlled by the AI onboard computer HAL 9000.


Early pre-production illustration of Discovery

This spaceship is founded on solidly conceived, yet unrealized science. Its novelized and filmed appearances differ. One major concession in its filmed appearance, for the purpose of reducing confusion, was to eliminate the huge cooling "wings" which would be needed to radiate the heat produced by its hypothetical thermonuclear propulsion system. The movie's producer/director Stanley Kubrick thought that the audience might interpret the wings as meaning that the spacecraft was intended to fly through an atmosphere.

Early in the development of the movie, Clarke and Kubrick considered having the Discovery be powered by an Orion type nuclear pulse propulsion system, but Kubrick quickly decided against it, both because showing the ship accelerate by a 'putt-putt' method might be "too comic" for film, and because it might be seen as him having embraced nuclear weapons after his prior film, Dr. Strangelove.[1]

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 orbiter Discovery (OV-103).


In the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Discovery One is described as being "almost 400 feet long with a sphere 40 feet dia." (122 meters and 12.2 meters respectively; the 2010 film mentions 800 feet) and powered by a nuclear plasma drive, separated by 275 feet (84 m) of tankage and structure, from 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 experience Moon-like gravitational conditions, and is where they would spend most of their time. Here also is where the three hibernating astronauts rested in their compartments. Piloting, navigation, and other occasional tasks take place elsewhere in the crew sphere not dedicated to the centrifuge. These other sections of the crewmen's sphere 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 the lack of aerodynamic design and its immense size, the Discovery One would be assembled in and launched from orbit. As described in the novel, the Discovery One was originally intended to survey the Jovian system, but its mission was changed to go to Saturn and investigate the destination of the signal from the black monolith found at the crater Tycho. As a result, the mission became a one-way trip to Saturn and its moon Iapetus. (In the filmed telling, the destination remains Jupiter.) 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 was hoped that a much larger and more powerful Discovery Two would be built that could make it to Iapetus and return with everyone in hibernation.


The ship's centrifuge is a spinning band of deck, mounted inside the crew compartment, using centrifugal force to simulate the effects of gravity. It is the primary living and work area, featuring consoles, panels, screens, and devices. In the movie, there was Earth gravity in the centrifuge. All other points on the ship, including the cockpit, are micro-g environments where the crew members use Velcro shoes to attach themselves to the floor. There is an automated kitchen (developed with the assistance of General Mills); a ship-to-Earth communications center; and a complete medical section where the astronauts undergo regular automated checkups with results and any diagnosis of deficiencies are displayed 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 be 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 is 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.[2]

The fate of the Discovery[edit]

After the malfunction of HAL, Bowman deactivated the computer, thus effectively isolating himself on board the Discovery. In the movie, when the spacecraft arrives at Jupiter, it encounters TMA-1's considerably larger 'Big Brother', 'TMA-2', at the Jupiter/Io L1 point. The novel is basically the same with Discovery in orbit around Saturn's moon Iapetus instead. In both versions Bowman leaves Discovery to examine the monolith and is taken inside it.

The novel and movie 2010: Odyssey Two follows the 2001: A Space Odyssey movie ending rather than the novel.

After finding out that Discovery's orbit is failing, a joint Soviet-US mission (including Heywood Floyd) travels to Jupiter aboard the spacecraft Alexei Leonov to intercept and board Discovery believing that it harbours many of the answers to the mysteries surrounding the 2001 mission. Leonov docks with Discovery, reactivates the on-board systems, and stabilizes its orbit. Hal's creator, Dr. Chandra, is sent to reactivate the HAL 9000 computer and gather any data 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 reveals that the “Great Black Spot” is in fact a vast population of monoliths increasing at a geometric rate. (The film accelerates the pace from the novel, both shortening Bowman's deadline from fifteen 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 elliptical orbit of Jupiter. The crew worries that Hal will have the same neuroses on discovering that he will be abandoned, and Chandra convinces HAL that the human crew is in danger and must leave.

After detaching itself from Discovery, Leonov makes a hasty exit from the Jupiter system, just in time to witness the 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 movie version, as part of its heightened Cold War emphasis, adds the words:


The new star, which Earth eventually dubs "Lucifer", destroys Discovery. HAL is transformed into the same kind of entity as David Bowman and becomes Bowman's companion.


Official Name: USSC Discovery One
USSA "Registration Number": XD-1
Overall Length: 140.2 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 crew, out of hibernation, for 90 months
Mission Specialists: Three persons

Engine Type (from the novel): Nuclear-powered magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters. Propellant - ammonia (primary) and hydrogen (Trans-Jovian injection).

Computer: HAL 9000 Logic Memory System (Completed Jan. 12, 1992 at the HAL Plant in Urbana, IL.)

2001: A Space Odyssey — Three of the Discovery One crew are in a state of hibernation, ostensibly to conserve resources for the voyage.

Suspended Animation System: Meditech 712-R Hibernacula (3 Centrifuge, 5 Medical Level)

EVA Craft: Grumman DC-3 EVA Pods (3)

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 to port, circuitry storage bay, two fresh water tanks, a maintenance equipment room, an emergency shelter and spacesuit 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.

Cockpit: Two seats for Mission Commander and Deputy Commander. Full range of instruments and control panels. Two sets of four LCD screens and HAL Visual Sensor.

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[edit]

  • Space: 1999 model maker Martin Bower, just after seeing 2001 at age sixteen, designed and built the Guardal Canal (a misspelling of "Guadalcanal") spacecraft based upon the Discovery. He later used it for the Year One episodes "Alpha Child" (as the pursuer spaceship), "War Games" (as the bomber), "The Last Enemy" (a modified version, the Deltan battleship, inspired by the bomber), and "Dragon's Domain" (as a wreck in the spaceship graveyard), and for the Year Two episode "The Metamorph" (again as a wreck).[citation needed]
  • The Hermes is a fictional spacecraft featured as the main vehicle of the Ares program in The Martian, Andy Weir's 2015 book, and its 2015 film adaptation. The Hermes carries its six-person crew to and from Mars, and includes a rotating gravity section, although its design is more spare than that of Discovery One[3].


  1. ^ Arthur C. Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, pp. 124-25.
  2. ^ "Light distance (or radio distance) to Jupiter".
  3. ^