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There are four craft shown at the beginning of 2001 A Space Odyssey in between the thrown bone and the rotating station Floyd visits. Is any information/ trivia known about these?
There has to be, right? The first craft shown is only from one of the most iconic scenes in film.

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    According to a couple websites they are military craft.
    – dean1957
    Feb 18 at 2:52

1 Answer 1

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OP asks:

Is There Any Information About the Four Spaceships at the Beginning of 2001 A Space Odyssey?

There is, lots.

TL;DR:

In the Wikipedia entry for 2001, there is a section called Military satellites that notes:

(originally) that the Star Child would detonate the (orbiting nuclear) weapons at the end of the film

In the film, U.S. Air Force insignia, and flag insignia of China and Germany (including what appears to be an Iron Cross) can be seen on three of the satellites, which correspond to three of the bombs stated countries of origin in a widely circulated early draft of the script.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretations_of_2001:_A_Space_Odyssey#Military_nature_of_orbiting_satellites

Piers Bizony, in his book 2001 Filming The Future, stated that after ordering designs for orbiting nuclear weapon platforms, Kubrick became convinced to avoid too many associations with Dr. Strangelove, and he decided not to make it so obvious that they were “war machines”.

in the book Stanley Kubrick, Director, noted that although the bombs no longer fit in with Kubrick’s revised thematic concerns (thus becoming “red herrings”), “nevertheless from the national markings still visible on the first and second space vehicles we see, we can surmise that they are the Russian and American bombs.”

Lots of information at:

http://www.starshipmodeler.com/2001/2001ref.htm

The orbital craft seen as we make the leap from the Dawn of Man to contemporary times are supposed to be weapons platforms carrying nuclear devices, though the movie does not make this clear. Several different designs were featured in the film, before the focus shifts to the ascending Orion III.

All of these were still images moved across the screen (and zoomed in and out) to provide the illusion of animation. You may note, while watching the film, that you never see any details shift due to parallax.

the nuke that was cut from the film is Soviet, probably because the US nuke matched up better to the flying bone at the end of the Dawn of Man sequence.

This section is from the 1965 script that has a description of the orbiting bombs and their nationality:

enter image description here

The narration, as mentioned above, was dropped but the images of the orbital bombs was left in, though again, as mentioned above, the Soviet bomb was cut out.

In this version there was no cut from the bone to the orbital platform.

The 4 on screen orbiting nukes are listed in order of appearance:

enter image description here

  1. U.S. Air Force Weapons Satellite

Production concept artwork, notice it is labelled American:

enter image description here

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  1. German Orbiting Weapons Satellite

enter image description here

  1. French Orbiting Weapons Satellite

Production artwork:

enter image description here

enter image description here

  1. Chinese Orbiting Weapons Satellite

Production artwork, indicating they were orbiting bombs:

enter image description here

Model kits were released with the same information:

enter image description here

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Additional:

Photos of some of the studio models used in filming 2001, along with other film models.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lee_stringer/albums/72157594495135291/page1

(Note: Less Stringer is a veteran VFX Supervisor on franchises such as Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.)

Picking out the decals used on the models:

https://www.collativelearning.com/2001%20chapter%208.html

This modeller displays all four:

enter image description here

http://thegreatcanadianmodelbuilderswebpage.blogspot.com/2013/01/german-orbiting-weapons-satellite-from.html

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    So the famous cut is not just going from a primitive tool to an advanced one, it is more specifically going from an ancient weapon to a modern weapon. Feb 22 at 10:03

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