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2001: A Space Odyssey (Film)

Last modified: 2006-01-21 by marc pasquin
Keywords: movies | 2001 |
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National Council of Astronautics

[fictional flag of the National Council of Astronautics] [fictional flag of the National Council of Astronautics]
reconstruction by James Dignan reconstruction by André Coutanche (based on James Dignan)

Near the beginning of the film (after the famous "Blue Danube" sequence showing a trip to the moon), Dr. Heywood R. Floyd, of the "National Council of Astronautics" is addressing a meeting. Behind him are two flags - that of the U.S. (impossible to be certain, but no reason to believe it's anything other than the 50-star version current when the film was made in 1968), and a lilac coloured flag with a white star. I don't think (BICBW) that this flag is explained in the movie - I assume it's the flag of the National Council of Astronautics. You can see a screen-capture I took here.

Googling on "National Council of Astronautics" also leads here, but this seems to bear little or no relation to "2001". The logo of this "National Council of Astronautics" is here.
André Coutanche, 14 May 2005

I believe the lilac one (which to my eyes is more lavender) has a single white four pointed star in the centre, with the bottom point of the star being longer than the others, but it's impossible to tell from the scene it's shown in - and no, it's not explained at all.
James Dignan, 14 May 2005

I think it's darker than James's gif and for some reason I had imagined elongated *top and bottom* points - and it also looks more like a 2:1 ratio to me.

In which case, I include a version, based on James's, with the ratio changed, the point mirrored, anti-aliasing on and a darker and web-safe palette.
André Coutanche, 15 May 2005

In my humble opinion, it is not a star but the (plan) shape of an Orion III space shuttle, such as the PanAm one shown reaching the rotating space station in the "Blue Danube" sequence you can see here. Click on the second row, third thumbnail.

Looking carefully at the inner angles of the "star", you'll see they are not symmetrical -- the top one is quite rounded, the (two visible) bottom ones are quite straight -- that is what made me think the side "rays" of the "star" are actually the wings of an Orion shuttle.
Santiago Dotor, 16 May 2005

I see what you mean, Santiago, but:

  • I wouldn't like to say much about relative angles from the screen capture I sent; we're down to looking at individual pixels here. Do you have a better image? James - fire up your DVD and give us a second opinion.

  • Wouldn't the Orion then be flying *down* the flag rather than up it? Not impossible, of course, but psychologically odd, surely?

André Coutanche, 16 May 2005

Why down? I would think of any flag depicting an airplane (or spaceship) showing it either sideways or heading up -- more so thinking of anything rocket-like.
Santiago Dotor, 16 May 2005

That's what I meant. The "long ray" of the "star" points downwards. But isn't the long part of the Orion shuttle the front, with the wings towards the stern? So if the "star" is the Orion, then it's flying down the flag.
André Coutanche, 16 May 2005

I see. The question is, we can't see the end of that "upper ray" -- why are we assuming it is shorter than the "bottom ray"?
Santiago Dotor, 16 May 2005

I'm not :-), but James giffed it as though it was. OTOH, I'm inclined to assume/guess that it's a star with long top and bottom rays and short side rays. Looking again at the (admittedly not sufficiently explicit) screen grab I sent, I doubt that there's room for the top ray to be longer than the visible bottom ray.
André Coutanche, 16 May 2005