Dr. Heywood Floyd - who had been the Director of
the "National Council on Astronautics" (NCA) during the Discovery
mission - has been made the scapegoat, and has since left the NCA to
become a university chancellor.
Friction is growing between the United States and the Soviet Union,
and both nations are preparing missions to determine what happened
to Discovery One. But although the Soviet Alexei Leonov will be
ready before the new American spaceship, the Soviets need Americans
astronauts to help investigate the problems with the HAL 9000
on-board supercomputer system, and to ease the diplomatic problems
associated with boarding an American spacecraft. The US government
reluctantly agrees to a joint mission, since Discovery's orbit
destines it to crash into the Jovian moon Io within a few years.
Floyd, who feels responsible for the failed mission, volunteers for
the mission himself and recruits two experts on Discovery: Dr.
Walter Curnow, one of its designers and builders, and Dr. Chandra,
who created the HAL 9000 series of artificial intelligence
The aim of the joint mission is threefold: to find the reason for
the mission's failure, to investigate the Monolith in orbit around
Jupiter, and to explain David Bowman's disappearance.
that much of this information is locked away in the abandoned
Discovery One spaceship and her on-board HAL 9000 computer.
Upon the Leonov's arrival in the Jovian system, Dr. Floyd is
awakened early from his hibernation by the Soviet crew because they
have detected the chemical signatures of life on
the moon Europa. An
unmanned probe detects something suggestive of life, but is
inexplicably destroyed in a burst of electromagnetic radiation
before close-up photos can be taken. Dr. Floyd suspects that it is a
warning from someone - or something - to keep away from Europa.
The Discovery One is found abandoned but undamaged, orbiting Jupiter
the moon Io.
After space walking over to it, Curnow
reactivates its on-board systems, and Chandra restarts the HAL 9000
computer ("HAL"), which had been deactivated before the Monolith had
been found. The Monolith is then rediscovered in the Lagrange point
between Jupiter and Io. Cosmonaut Max Brailovsky travels to it in an
EVA pod, but is killed by a burst of power that emerges from the
Monolith and heads into outer space towards the Earth.
A series of scenes follow in which Dave Bowman, who has been
transformed into an incorporeal being, travels to the Earth. He
appears on his widow's TV screen and says his final goodbyes and
visits his terminally-ill and senile mother in a nursing home,
combing her hair, much to her delight, as he had done during his
boyhood. She is found dead in her bed shortly afterwards.
Chandra discovers the reason for HAL's malfunction: he had become
paranoid after his NSC controllers ordered him to conceal from
Bowman and Poole the knowledge that the Discovery mission was about
the Monolith mystery. This had conflicted with HAL's basic function:
the accurate processing and distribution of information without
concealment or distortion. Dr. Floyd is disgusted and denies any
knowledge of the secret directive.
Meanwhile, the tensions between the United States and Soviet Union
have escalated to what is "technically a state of war".
government orders Floyd, Curnow and Chandra to leave the Russian
spacecraft and move into the Discovery One. On board, Dave Bowman
appears to Floyd, warning him that they must leave Jupiter within
two days because "something wonderful" will happen.
The Monolith suddenly disappears, and a
growing black spot appears on the Jovian surface. Telescopic
observations reveal that the spot is in fact a vast population of
Monoliths, increasing in number at an exponential rate, shrinking
Jupiter's volume, increasing its density, and modifying the chemical
properties of its atmosphere.
Since neither ship can reach the Earth
with an early departure, the two crews work together to use
Discovery as a booster rocket for the Leonov. Tension arises when
HAL is not told that the Discovery will be left stranded in space,
and probably destroyed; Chandra fears that another deception may
cause a repeat of HAL's malfunctions.
During the countdown Dr. Chandra tells
HAL the whole truth, and much to everyone's collective relief, the
computer understands that it must sacrifice itself for the human
beings on board the Leonov.
The Leonov leaves Jupiter just in time to witness the swarm of
Monoliths engulf Jupiter and increase its density to the point that
nuclear fusion occurs, transforming Jupiter into a small star.
wave of hot plasma erupts from the forming star, incinerating the
Discovery, but failing to destroy the Leonov.
As the Leonov exits its Jovian orbit, HAL is commanded by the
mysterious extraterrestrial intelligences to repeatedly broadcast
this message toward the Earth:
"ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS, EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE. USE THEM TOGETHER. USE THEM IN
Over a montage of images of two Suns in
the sky of Earth, Floyd, in voice-over, explains that this
miraculous occurrence inspired the American and Soviet leaders to
end their stance of war.
The film ends with a montage that
depicts Europa gradually transforming over millennia from an icy
wasteland to a humid jungle covered with plant life and with
primordial sounds emanating from the trees.
In the final shot, the camera pans
across the jungle, eventually settling upon a lagoon where a lone
Monolith is standing upright, waiting for intelligent life forms to