Astronauts See Influence of Arthur C. Clarke, Past Crews Aboard Station

Astronauts See Influence of Arthur C. Clarke, Past Crews Aboard Station
The joint crews of NASA's shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station pose for a group photo during the STS-123 mission in March 2008. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The crewsof the International Space Station and the visiting space shuttle Endeavourspoke from space Sunday night to reporters gathered at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

During theevent, collectSPACE.comasked the astronauts to reflect on the influences of science fiction writerArthur C. Clarke, who died March 18 at age 90, and of the previous visitors tothe space station.

Set toundock from the outpost at 7:56 p.m. EDT on Monday, Endeavour's crew spentnearly two weeks adding the Japanese-built Kibo Logistics Module and a Canadiantwo-arm robot, nicknamed Dextre, to the station. STS-123 mission specialistRick Linnehan made three spacewalks to assemble and deploy Dextre, which drewhumorous comparisons by spectators on the ground with Clarke's "2001: ASpace Odyssey" computer, "HAL."

"Well,I am a big Arthur C. Clarke fan, and I have to say that Dextre just isn't assmart as HAL," stated Linnehan, inspiring laughter by his fellowastronauts. "But, he's built to be brawn and not brains and he's going toserve a big purpose up here in terms of moving a lot of hardware around frompoint 'A' to point 'B'."

"Myall-time favorite movie, I have to say, is '2001' and it's fun to drawanalogies to this. When I look at different sci- fi epics like that — when Iwas a kid I watched them on TV or at the movies — actually there are a lotmore similarities than you would think," he continued.

"Imean, here we are up on an international space station, we're inside it and Iremember in '2001' they built one out of von Braun's [ideas], a little bitdifferent perhaps in design, but for the same purpose," he said, recallingthe role German rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun played in influencing the lookof director Stanley Kubrick's movie adaptation of Clarke's story.

"So,the robot Dextre will a very useful addition to the station. It won't beperforming highly complex computing and command functions such as HAL did, butnever the less, it serves an important purpose," clarified Linnehan.

AssistingLinnehan on the first spacewalk and at Dextre's controls later during theflight was Garrett Reisman, who launched onEndeavour but transferred to the station crew upon arriving. During theapproach to their ISS, Reisman said the score to '2001' had come to mind as thesuitable soundtrack.

"Allwe needed was 'The Blue Danube' playing in the background and it would havebeen just like the movie," he said during an interview held earlier in themission.

When hefinally entered the space station, his home for the next two months, Reismanwas noted as its 150th visitor by a NASA commentator.

"Ithink I share that distinction with Dom because we crossed the hatch at thesame time. I'm not sure who [was first], who won by a nose, but we were bumpinginto each other and the walls so much that it really doesn't matter,"Reisman told collectSPACE, referring to Dom Gorie, Endeavour's commander.

Whethernumber 150 or 151, Reisman said he'd noticed the impact that the 149 earliercrew members had upon the station.

"Previouscrews have left their mark not only with stains of tropical punch on some ofthe walls near the galley, but also suggested in some of the mission patchesthat have been left behind," he described.

"Thereis a sense of history,especially on the Russian side in the oldest parts of the station. They arewell lived in and you realize, when you are sleeping in those kayutas, thesleep stations over there, that there is a long line of people who have gonebefore you in those," said Reisman. "There's a whole history of spaceflight in just that one module."

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.