I sometimes get into discussions about if a spacecraft design is realistic. These are frequently interesting, but it’s not straightforward. For example, there are serious designs from the early days of spaceflight which we now know could not work. Manned craft without heavy radiation shielding are a common example of this.
On the other hand, you have some fictional craft carefully designed to be as realistic as possible – the vehicles in “2001 a Space Odyssey” are a great example.
So how to handle it when some fictional craft are more credible than serious designs? here’s my attempt at a system, from the most realistic to the least. Comments and additions are very welcome.
1. Real space hardware that actually flew successfully.
This is an alternate design for the ship “Discovery” from the film 2001. In my view it is much inferior to the final version, but this is interesting. This one tends to self-shadow a lot for one thing, which makes it difficult to light. But note that the habitation sphere is identical to the final version used in the film – this element was about the only constant factor in the many design changes.
It is based on sketches in Chris Frayling’s excellent book “The 2001 Files”, and my version incorporates elements from several sketches.
I also did a turntable video of it, to show off the shape.
From other sketches it is clear that there are 48 fuel tanks just under the widest part of the vehicle.
Now working on alternate unused designs for the 2001 Discovery, of which there were many. This one is fairly close to the finished version, but had added tension cables (helpful), and large cooling vanes (essential).
The vanes can tip – this would presumably be so they can stay edge on to the Sun, to avoid overheating.
Credible design for the craft like “Discovery” in “2001, A Space Odyssey” was considered very important, but the cooling vanes looked too much like wings, and were therefore dropped.
My favourite film, without a doubt is the stunning “2001 A Space Odyssey”. Even all these years after its release, it still manages to look credible and futuristic.
I have now finished the model of the alternate design for the 2001 Space Station. This mesh is based on sketches in the excellent book “The 2001 File” by Christopher Frayling. The bulk of the book is the design sketches by Harry Lange that were done for the spacecraft concepts used in the film.
The sketches were basic, so I added lots of details from the design actually used in the film.
I’ve also made a short animated video to show it off, I recommend watching in HD if possible!
Today I received my pre-ordered copy of The 2001 File, the Harry Lange design archive. This is a review of it.
Initial impressions are good, the book is heavy, with lots of pages. I was a bit surprised at the lack of a slip cover though.
But the meat of it is, of course, the illustrations. It is VERY heavily illustrated, and the vast majority of the pictures are new to me. The pictures main focus on the design history of all the major elements in the film, with many, many alternate designs that never made it into the finished film.
In many cases there are quite literally dozens and dozens of alternate designs, and it it genuinely fascinating to see how some fairly crude early attempts evolved into the iconic finished versions.
The illustrations are mainly line drawings or plans – there are some colour photographs, but these are not at all well presented, being more than a bit blurry in most cases.
The plans and diagrams make this an essential purchase for someone like me, and astronomical artist. I;m less show about the value to a more general audience, but if you love the design of the film, you will likely find it very satisfying.
I’ve not yet had a chance to read the text properly, but I did notice one mistake – an Ion Spaceship design by Erst Stuhlinger is described as a “Cruciform Space Station”. But speaking for myself, I am very happy to have it, and I am already twitching to turn some of the deigns into fully realised CGI!