Michael P. O'Hara – Killing Time


I'm a little younger than NASA, but only by two months. I had the good fortune to witness the greatest era of space exploration. Like many, I wanted to be an astronaut, and still to this day, I am captivated by the exploration and mysteries of space.  In 1968, when 2001: A Space Odyssey came out, I had to see it. I was nine at the time in what was definitely a different era.  I walked alone the one mile from Jackson Street in South Baltimore to the McHenry Theater on Light Street.  It was nothing unusual for that time. Once the movie started, and it came up on the big screen, I was mesmerized. It was one thing to watch space movies and news on a black and white television screen, it was another to see this masterpiece in color!

This movie had everything a young boy was interested in, spaceships, space stations, a shuttle like vehicle that flew into space, trips to the moon, and computers. It made space look so easy. Unlike Star Trek, it lacked diversity, including female members of the crew.  They were largely relegated to flight attendants on the Orion, and a few other cameo appearances.  For 1968, effects like this had not been seen before. It was as close to space as I could come. The views of the Earth, the moon, the spaceships, and space itself were so realistic. Writer Arthur C. Clarke was a master, as a was the film's director Stanley Kubrick.  I'll be the first to admit the ending puzzled me at the time, but that wasn't what I was there for - it was for the grand vision of the future painted up on the screen. Based on where we were in the space race, I thought for sure what I was watching on that summer day in 1968 would be a reality by the time the year 2001 came along.  So taken by the effects, I sat through the movie twice, and likely would have for a third time, but the hour grew late.

Much later in life, I had written to Sir Arthur C. Clarke about how moved I was by the experience. So much so that I have a room with nothing but 2001 framed pictures, lobby cards, posters, and a model of the Discovery spacecraft. Not to be forgotten, all of the "2000" series books.  Mr. Clarke was quite aged at the time, but I received a letter back on his behalf stating that he was ill, and enclosed was an autographed bookplate. A nice touch, from a man who saw the future, and inspired so many to dream, including me.  I'll be in the theater on May 18th or there about, and once again dreaming of the space, and the future.