2001: A Space Odyssey

Corrected entry: In the scene where we see the Moonbus landing at the Tycho Excavation Base, its descent engines raise dust that billows rather than falling in an arc straight back to the ground as would normally be the case in a vacuum. (00:50:35)


Correction: Previously posted and corrected. This is an accepted film technique, not a mistake. You cannot film in a vacuum.

Vacuum chambers certainly existed at the time. NASA tested Apollo spacecraft in them. It may have been difficult, but it certainly would have been feasible to film models in a vacuum at the time. Further, why should an "accepted film technique" forgive an obvious mistake in physics. If anything, it would be an intentional mistake if there was no way to simulate the effect of dust in a vacuum.


Correction: Dust particles will billow out in the manner we see if they have gas molecules to bounce off. Normally on the moon they have no such thing but in this case they do - the exhaust plume of the landing spacecraft. Until it slowly dissipates it will react with the dust molecules just like an atmosphere does.

Corrected entry: While Dave Bowman & Frank Poole are in the pod bay they lean against the workbench much as anyone would on Earth, yet the pod bay is a weightless environment.

Correction: Already posted and corrected. Microgravity doesn't paralyse your muscles. You'd lean on things just the way you do under normal gravity.

Corrected entry: Counter to a previous claim of factual error . In various scenes on both the Discovery spaceship and the Pod, angular momentum CAN be preserved without rotating the whole Discovery ship, as was claimed, if there were unseen counter-motions (as in a possible "sub floor" rotating in the opposite direction as the visible floor). The same principle can explain how the pod rotates without any visible thrust from, for example, gas jets. Rotation can be all mechanically achieved, with motors, and all angular momentum is preserved as the ship avoids appearing to rotate against the background stars.What we see is all plausibly accurate according to Newtonian Mechanics.

Correction: Good point, but this is a section for posting mistakes, not non-mistakes. If you are claiming that a previous post for a factual error is incorrect you would need to correct that submission, not post the correction as a mistake.

BocaDavie Premium member

Corrected entry: If you take the letters in the computer's name (HAL), and then the next letter in the alphabet after each one, you get IBM. Stanley Kubrick denied it was on purpose but it is still kind of neat.

Correction: Arthur C. Clarke who wrote the book from the film also always and consistently denied this .

Corrected entry: In the famous scene where the ape throws a bone into the sky, in one shot the bone at first revolves anti-clockwise and then in the next shot, just before the jump cut to the shot of the spaceship, it now revolves clockwise.

Correction: As the background changes dramatically, it's obvious this is shot from the other side.


Corrected entry: In the beginning of the film where we see the ape-men, it looks as if they are wearing Converse All-Star type gym shoes that have been painted to look like feet. Perhaps the rocky terrain was too hard on the costumed actors' feet.

Correction: No shot clearly indicates this suggestion. A more specific scene description or timecode is needed to verify this claim as the 'Dawn of Man" sequence is 20 minutes long.


Corrected entry: When all the apes are gathering around the big block at the beginning of the film, look carefully at the sky. The clouds never move, not even slowly. (00:11:55 - 00:13:55)


Correction: It's not that they NEVER move; they just don't appear to move within the few minutes we are watching, which is perfectly natural.


Corrected entry: When Dave recaptures Frank with the pod, one of Frank's legs is outside the pod's pincers, but when Dave releases Frank to reenter the ship, both legs are in the pincer. Seems a bit risky to try to get another grip in the vacuum of space...


Correction: Not at all. The other arm held Frank securely around the neck so that opening and re-grasping for both Frank's legs would be risk-free.


Corrected entry: The first time Dave is shown running around the room on the ship, in the roomwide shot he runs past the three hibernating crew, then the two empty beds. In the following chase shot on his back, he passes them in reverse order.


Correction: The scenes aren't necessarily continuous time, but a collage of shots of his exercise period. He even reverses direction between two of the shots so where the pair of sleeping crew was on his left, they are now on his right.


Corrected entry: On Discovery, artificial gravity is created by a spinning centrifuge. This is fine, but crew members are shown climbing a ladder into the center, where they are weightless. In reality, they would experience a quite large force perpendicular to the ladder. This is because they still have momentum from traveling with the floor of the centrifuge, but the speed of the higher steps is lower, and the speed in the center is zero.

Correction: True, but you are not taking all of the variables into consideration. Most importantly, how fast is the centrifuge spinning? We don't really know; they never say that the subjects standing at the bottom of the ladder are under full gravity; it may be a fraction of earth's gravity. Second, they take a few seconds to climb/descend the ladder, and they are bracing themselves from any sideways motion while on the trips up and down. Saying they would experience "quite a large force perpendicular to the ladder" is an asumption. It is also not a movie mistake, your statement would have to include both the amount of force that should be pushing them sideways and proof that they could not overcome the force by grasping the ladder rungs tightly.

BocaDavie Premium member

Corrected entry: During the scene when the photographer is taking photographs of the scientists next to the monolith on the moon, a flying insect e.g. a fly or moth, can quite be briefly seen against the dark background of the monolith itself.

Correction: I just watched this scene twice, once in slow motion, and can see no such thing. Screenshot, please?

Corrected entry: In the scenes with the lunar shuttle and the lunar buggy, we see a swirling cloud of dust as they are touching down. The dust would only swirl around like this within an atmosphere; it would not do this on the airless moon. (00:40:00 - 00:50:40)

Correction: Similar mistakes have been posted and corrected. This is an accepted film technique, not an error. You cannot film in a vacuum, even if you could find a studio big enough to have the air pumped out.

Corrected entry: The initial scene shows a desert with Brazilian tapirs grazing in the background. Tapirs have never been recorded living in any sort of desert, either through live sightings, secondary evidence, or fossil record.

Correction: Neither have apes, leopards or zebras. This is not a desert - it is tropical grassland which has been devastated by drought.

Corrected entry: In the montage of various Earth orbiting satellites, there is a shot of a device which is clearly illuminated mainly from underneath, whereas the Earth & Moon in the background are clearly lit from above.

Correction: That's because it is lit from underneath - by reflected light from the Earth, which is only a few hundred kilometres away. The Earth has a very high albedo and would reflect a huge amount of light onto the satellite.

Corrected entry: During the trip to the Moon, the spacecraft's captain makes a friendly call on his passenger, Dr. Floyd. Although they are weightless, the captain leans onto Floyd's chair under his full body weight.

Correction: Microgravity doesn't paralyse your muscles. Someone used to 'weightlessness' would be able to pose in such a manner simply by leaning at the right angle.

Corrected entry: At the beginning of the TMA-1 excavation scene, studio lights can be seen reflecting off the tops of the astronauts' helmets (note the position of the sun low on the horizon versus the camera's perspective).

Correction: Those are the reflections of the construction lights positioned to light the excavation, which are in shot, as they are intended to be.

Corrected entry: When Heywood Floyd was talking to his daughter on the video-phone, the camera at home was moving slightly (up, down and sideways) to follow the movements of the girl. In reality, the phone camera would have been in a fixed position.

Correction: I have a webcam with a motion sensor which follows me as I move, and a studio protected by CCTV cameras similarly equipped. Bog standard technology.

Corrected entry: There's a 'Floating Pen' on the PanAm shuttle when Dr. Floyd is sleeping. On the DVD, you can see the thread holding the pen when the camera quickly re-focuses from the stewardess to the pen. Just before the re-focus occurs, go to slo-mo and it's very obvious.


Correction: No it isn't, because a thread was not used. The pen was glued to a disc of glass which was slowly rotated, and a careful cut insterspersed when the stewardess plucks the pen out of the air.

Corrected entry: In the briefing room on the moon, folks are walking around normally with no apparent effects of the moon's weak gravity. Same for the group of men walking to the monolith in space suits.


Correction: This is an accepted film convention, not a mistake. Films like 'Red Planet' and 'Mission to Mars' were shot years after 2001 and had the advantage of much more advanced special effects techniques, but they didn't attempt to simulate Martian gravity. The same can be said of 'Pluto Nash', shot on a $100,000,000 budget and set on the moon but making no attempt to show the effects of lunar gravity.

Corrected entry: In the scene where Dave is replacing the AE35 unit at the antenna he is steadying himself only with his hand as he does his work. In reality every motion he made would have a equal opposite reactions so he would have been twisting in space and unable to do a basic task. He should be more firmly anchored to the antenna to be accurate.

Correction: The fact that he can manoevre towards the antenna mount while not tethered to the pod shows he has some form of steering in space, such as small reaction jets. These can be preset to overcome rotational motion of the body nowadays - Space Shuttle astronauts use them. No reason the crew of the Discovery can't be similarly equipped.

Other mistake: There is something drastically wrong with the design of the spherical 'Aries' moon shuttle. Some seats and many fixtures are 'upside down' relative to the up-down orientation of the shuttle itself, and we see loose food trays and equipment about the place as if this is routine. But - the shuttle is designed to land on the moon. What happens then? The moon has gravity, remember? There are going to be quite a few very disgruntled people dangling upside down like spiders, and there will be loose gear (and perhaps a stewardess or two) bouncing about all over the place. It is not a matter of stowing loose gear or lying flat on landing - some parts of the shuttle are upside down relative to others, which is why the stewardess has to do that famous 180 degree upside down walk. Whichever way you look at it the shuttle is going to encounter serious problems when it reaches a gravity well, which will occur whenever the engines are fired up, never mind landing on the moon.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: The shuttle lands "on its back" with legs extending beyond the engines. As in most traditional sci-fi, and ALL actual, space flights to date, the launch (and landing) orientation for humans is to be on one's back. This minimizes blood being sucked down to your feet if you were sitting upright at launch - you could pass out. So we see this when the shuttle lands on the moon - the cockpit (red window) faces up (pilots on their backs, facing out the window). When we presume that the passenger cabin was 180 degrees spun around from the cockpit seating, they're still on their backs. Any loose objects would have been stowed before landing - the airlines don't lock down your bags, newspapers and coffee cups, right? They're loose in the cabin during flight, but put away on takeoff and landing.

Airliners do not fly upside down. The Orion shuttle cannot possibly operate the way it does if it lands in a gravity environment - some rooms are upside down relative to others - why else would the stewardess do the 180 degree vertical walk? It is an idiotic design flaw, and the posting is 100% correct.

More mistakes in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

More quotes from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Trivia: The little girl on the picture phone is director Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian. (00:27:50)

Larry Koehn
More trivia for 2001: A Space Odyssey

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