In a second of a series on factual designed spacecraft from the 1968 film '2001: A Space Odyssey' we will look at one of the more esoteric spacecraft designs featured: the Pan Am Space Clipper.
By the mid 1960's the race to the moon was in full swing by both the United States and the U.S.S.R. NASA in particular was developing plans for a robust space program that they assumed would continue beyond the initial moon landing at the same frenzied pace as Project Apollo.
Von Braun proposed grand schemes included large orbital space stations serviced by winged space shuttles, moonbases, and trips to Mars.
A rare illustration from a 1968 illustration by Robert McCall showing a winged booster for the clipper.
Many of these ideas were lavishly illustrated by several space artists and designers. The space clipper design used in '2001' came from many of these designs speculating on a winged space shuttle. One possible source for the space clipper was a antipodal space bomber that German scientist Eugene Sanger designed for the Third Reich during the second world war. This bomber which was called the "silverbird" was a winged glider that was intended to be launched by a rocket-powered sled.
There is a cool CGI animation depicting the Silverbird at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Lzgmg-9-c
Many early space shuttle concepts depicted either a rocket sled launcher or a 'twin' glider where one vehicle would lift the orbiter to Mach 25.
Over the decades I took care to keep my space clipper kit safe from being broken or discarded. My kit was also rebuilt twice since the mid-70's to utilize gained experiences in model building.
Having fun with PhotoShop
Below are photos of my Aurora space clipper as it looks 37 years after I purchased it.