The Dumbell

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Not the USS Discovery

Image copyright British Interplanetary Society

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USS DiscoveryIf this bears a certain familiarity to the Discovery from 2001: a Space Odyssey, that's because the basic shape was one favoured by Arthur C. Clarke since he started writing about space travel over half a century ago.  This is what he called the "gamma" or dumbbell shaped spaceship.  One sphere is the habitat module for the crew and the other sphere contains the atomic motors needed to drive the craft to edge of the Solar System.  The stick in the middle is to put some distance between the crew and the atomic reactor in hopes of keeping two-headed offspring to a minimum.

When 2001 was filming, Kubrick went through dozens of different spaceship designs.  There were fat ones, thin ones, wedge-shaped ones, but in the end, the winner was the dumbbell.  You can't beat a classic.

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