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Literature Study Guides2001 A Space OdysseyPart 3 Chapters 15 16 Summary

2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 3, Chapters 15–16 : Between Planets | Summary



Chapter 15: Discovery

Part 3 of the novel called "Between Planets" relates the journey of the Discovery to Saturn.

On board the spacecraft Discovery, Captain David Bowman already feels distant from Earth, even though the mission to Saturn is only 30 days in. Another crew member, Frank Poole, feels similarly. Three other members of the crew—Whitehead, Kaminski, and Hunter—are in a state of hibernation and are to be revived only when they are needed to study the planet. Bowman considers the role of hibernation in their mission. This brings up memories of his first experience with hibernation back at the Houston Space Flight Center on Earth.

Chapter 16: HAL

While many of Discovery's sensors and telescopes are aimed at space, one telescope is aimed at Earth, making communication between Earth and the spacecraft possible. Looking at his home planet, Bowman appreciates seeing recognizable features of its landscape.

Meanwhile, the HAL 9000—the Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer—takes care of much of the ship's business. Hal, an artificial intelligence, keeps life support, navigation, and all other vital ship systems running correctly. In an emergency he is capable of taking command of the ship and completing the mission. In fact, Hal knows something his human crew does not: the true nature of the mission.


These chapters shift the setting once again, moving the story outward from Earth, past the moon, and en route to Saturn. This reflects the story's structure, which moves forward in time and outward in space.

They also introduce two very important main characters in the novel—David Bowman and Hal. The natural comparison and contrast between these two characters helps the novel delve even further into the theme of humanity. On the one hand, Bowman is immediately described as feeling distant from Earth and isolated from the rest of humanity. In some ways he has become separated from the concerns of humanity, except for those involved in the mission. Conversly, the narrative goes to great lengths to show that Hal is practically human. His brain was created by "growing" an artificial brain in a process similar to human brain development. He can pass the Turing test—a test developed in the 1950s by Alan Turing to judge whether a machine could be considered intelligent. As the narrative continues these two characters will continue to develop, as Bowman gives up connections to his own humanity, and Hal becomes more and more human.

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