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Leonov: American crew Arriving

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An Introduction by Rob Caswell
In 1981 my mind was whipped into a fervor of anticipation for Clarke's 2001 sequel novel. That Fall I was lucky enough to get my hands on an uncorrected proof (about five months prior to the book's release) and gobbled the work down with great delight. It has stood the test of time as one of my favorite Clarke works, worthy of numerous re-readings.

It was a few years between my first brush with the novel and the release of Hyam's screen version. In the intervening time my mind had sculpted a rough shape of what Clarke and his hard science sensibility had described in the book. While Syd Mead's screen design has become something of an iconic design, later inspiring ships for Babyon-5, it is emphatically not the ship from Clarke's novel. It differs in key features as well as adherence to practical near future spacecraft design.

As most of you reading this know, Tom is Clarke junkie (like myself), as evidenced by the title and content of his "How The Solar System Was Won" images. So I approached him with the idea of working together to hash out the Leonov the vessel described by Clarke in his novel. We started by both creating blind sketches based on the book's description. When we compared the results, we were surprised to discovered our designs were almost identical. Clarke's words as well as real world science and technology seem to point to a pretty specific result.

Tom proceeded to craft the model, with my input and feedback at several junctures. Our directions were guided by several ideals: modern Russian spacecraft engineering (though 2010 is clearly an alternate future, now), the needs dictated by real world physics, and a nod to some of the 2001 design ethos.

It was a really fun collaboration and the result is a work we're both very proud of. I only wish Arthur were still alive so we could send him a complimentary print. It would have been fascinating to hear his feedback.

--Rob Caswell

Rob's done a great job describing our goals on this project. I would just add that we had no thought of challenging Mead's Leonov- I hold that design in great esteem- but rather to create an interpretation of Arthur Clarke's vision without the design limitations imposed by movie physics, sensibilities, and requirements. (Mead has said, himself, that the rotating spin hab was only added to his Leonov because it was going to spend so much screen time sitting motionless, and it needed to some animated element. The novel's Leonov does not have a centrifuge at all.)
This will be the first of a series of this craft, as we progress chronologically through the events of the novel. I hope you have as much fun looking at them as we had designing and refining the literary Leonov.
Thanks for taking a look!
OH-BTW, rendered and modeled in Lightwave 8.5. The Orion III model is via Foundation 3D, by B.J. West, and the background of the Nile valley and the cradle of civilization is a NASA photograph.
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Taranis69's avatar
very nice design. hope to see more of this ship in action, image wise :)
steve-burg's avatar
Very interesting alternative design for the Leonov! It does have a Russian vibe to it... and is much closer to what the book described...

"2001" (film) is a visual landmark - though from where we sit today it obviously was not an accurate prediction of the future! Nevertheless it presents a compelling vision of a world we have yet to reach (particularly Clavius Base - a city on the moon!) ***sigh***

If we - or someone (anyone?) - ultimately builds spacecraft that really do the job and really get us out there - I have no doubt they will be unique and beautiful - as anything functional tends to be. They will be like the Tall Ships...
karanua's avatar
Clarke's leonov didn't need a centrifuge, the internal gravity was provided by the near constant thrust of the sakharov (sp?) drive, something that never even got a mention in the film. The books were excellent as are most of Clarkes stuff any plans to do any of the other books he wrote? The rama series has plenty novel sections that could be recreated with well done CGI. This Leonov to my mind is the definitive ship just wondering what your collaboration could come up with with a title say like "against the fall of night" to work from.
Keiichi-K1's avatar

So basically, the novelization of the Leonov was the Rocinante :P

CaveGrue's avatar
While the movie version looks cooler, this looks much more like a real spaceship.
Dimsdale00's avatar
This is so fantastic. I'm going to build it as a scale model or have this built by a pro. Thank you so much for sharing this work.
Thomas-Peters's avatar
Just for you, arcas-changed full view size
RobCaswell's avatar
There's a lot of detail there. Too bad the image isn't larger.
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