Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: Odyssey 2.0

The year 2010 takes me back as much as forward. For me this coming year is irrevocably connected to the book and movie 2010: Odyssey Two, sequels to the venerated originals that blew the mind of a generation.  The writing of 2010, together with the subsequent screenplay and the production of the movie, spanned the years 1982-1984. It was a time when my mentors Arthur Clarke and Carl Sagan were at the height of their articulate influence on the public and on me personally. My life had already been consigned to the art of the possible by my good fortune to connect with a young Peter Diamandis and Todd Hawley; together becoming dream weavers while immersed in a dynamic of incredibly inspirational visionaries who had once been teachers, authors and celebrities and were now our collaborators, advisors and mentors. SEDS had already been born and the Space Generation was emerging in our consciousness; an ecosystem of optimism and benign conspiracy that would be highly influential in our founding of the International Space University a few years later.

In that period it was probably Carl's potent intellect and standards that kept me reaching; but it was Arthur's personable wit, charm and sense of fun that kept me grounded. Both utterly brilliant and wonderful people, Carl gave me the cosmic perspective while Arthur gave me the sense of adventure to do something about it.

While "2001" had inspired me as a boy, the creation of "2010" became a personal odyssey. I had the fun of pointing out an astronomical error to Arthur in the book's first edition that Carl had already proof-read and blessed ("stop the presses!" Arthur yelped...); reading copies of Arthur's electronic dialog with director Peter Hyams (the screenplay was written collaboratively over a new thing called "email"; Arthur and Peter never actual met until the Hollywood premiere); shooing uncooperative pigeons into the shot for Arthur's cameo in the movie (an early scene in front of the White House; Arthur plays a homeless person sitting on a bench screen left from Roy Scheider and James McEachin); and watching Roy drop his pants to "moon" fellow actor-turned president Ronald Reagan passing overhead in Marine One (a light hearted event the film's PR company later denied).

During the 1980's, in the aftermath of the false dawn of Apollo, it became clear that the complicated embrace of politics and space exploration had ultimately failed to produce anything close to the future portrayed by the space visionaries. It became a philosophical and generational divide for many of us. The Age of Apollo was amplified by 2001: A Space Odyssey so intimately that it is not clear which phenomenon was cause or effect. While a world worn by war and uncertainty watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step onto the lunar surface in 1969, the imaginations of Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick promised a future of discovery, bounty, civility and higher purpose that seemed within our grasp - a vision of a future where anything was possible. Then in a manic reversal of thrust, the Moon program was cancelled, transforming those incredible accomplishments into the unrequited aspirations of the first space generation - Orphans of Apollo.

The 2001 New Year was historic for we Orphans; however it wasn't very poignant. The imaginations of Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick had so radically outpaced our known reality in space that any probability of the possible was lost. No lunar probes were flying. No commercial space liners could take us up to an orbiting hotel. At the turn of the millennium the Moon remained a world ignored; an ambition of a decayed political regime lost in the public mindset. If there were any magnetic anomalies waiting to be discovered, beacons of alien alarm clocks or not, they would have to await the resurgence of human curiosity about its sister world.

But 2010 is different. We are now immersed in a new dawn of lunar exploration; "Moon 2.0" as branded by the Google Lunar X PRIZE. In the past few years numerous government probes have delivered a stunning amount of new information about the Moon. We now know that water exists on the Moon in sufficient quantities to be a game changer for lunar exploration. Private capital is flowing into commercial space initiatives. The Moon is a whole new world embraced by collaborative public and private interests; open to government and commercial missions intent on exploring and developing Earth's closest island of opportunity in our planetary archipelago.

Arthur and Carl would have been thrilled about the renewed exploration initiatives and science being generated as we continue to discover the richness and diversity of a world so conveniently written off as dead and boring. The Moon has the land area of the combined Americas and we have barely begun to unravel and unveil its mysteries and resources. 2010 is the decade when the Moon will truly become Earth's sister world as part of our economic sphere; a destination of exploration and settlement and a stepping stone to Mars and beyond.

It should come as no surprise that my company's name, "Odyssey Moon", is a reverent nod to Arthur Clarke and all that he did to inspire we Orphans of Apollo. In my last email exchange with Arthur we shared our mutual enthusiasm for the renewed interests in the Moon and the Google Lunar X PRIZE-inspired efforts to create a sustainable commercial presence. With tongue in cheek he suggested that he'd like to offer his own personal bonus prize for the detection of any lunar magnetic anomalies...

Retrospection inspires resolution. Here's to 2010, the year we make contact with a renewed hope for our future in space and on Earth.

Happy New Year everyone.


  1. Great entry Bob! Those where magical years as we had time with Uncle Arthur. I'm STILL jealous that you and Todd got to hang out with Arthur on Set for 2010. I was probably attending some boring class on human pathphysiology or something. Onward to 2061!!! Hugs, Peter

  2. Definitely a great post Bob! I'll never forget when we had Arthur speak to SEDS while he was doing the filming in DC and you guys left me backstage alone with Arthur for a few moments while preparing for his talk. I was speechless...for a moment. Then we had a nice short chat until Todd came back. And he signed a book for me and signed it "Uncle Arthur".

    I was also just making a comment to someone about how while I'm not doing a space odyssey, I'm definitely having my own odyssey as I make a zero MSL orbit of the Earth.


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