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Literature Study Guides2001 A Space OdysseyPart 3 Chapters 17 18 Summary

2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 3, Chapters 17–18 : Between Planets | Summary



Chapter 17: Cruise Mode

As Discovery speeds through space, Poole and Bowman alternate duty on a 12-hour shift schedule. Routine tasks occupy their days, and they adhere to a rigid schedule. Games of checkers and chess with Hal also help pass the time.

Chapter 18: Through the Asteroids

Discovery must fly through the asteroid belt, and they will come close enough to one asteroid—7794—to deploy a probe that will collect data from it. When they near the asteroid, they deploy the probe. It is Discovery's last encounter with matter before they reach Jupiter in three months.


These chapters dwell on some of the details of Discovery's various parts and systems, lending that detailed scientific realism which science fiction authors often seek. For example, the mundane matters of ship's duty shifts and its structure are described. The mechanics of deploying the asteroid probe are also described in more detail than the plot requires.

Descriptions of the kitchen, bathrooms, and other parts of the ship requiring gravity are described as being located in a section of the ship with artificial gravity. Since the process of writing this novel was intertwined with the writing of the film screenplay, it makes sense that Clarke would invent a possible way for simulating gravity on a spacecraft. After all, this allowed Stanley Kubrick to film scenes without having to show astronauts floating inside the ship. Clarke creates a ship that has a rotating part, which generates a gravity-like effect.

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