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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Fifty years ago this week, “2001: A Space Odyssey” captured the nation’s imagination with a scientifically accurate-vision of space travel.

Now, a new Smithsonian exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington celebrates the anniversary aims to make visitors think about our place in the universe.

Before the world watched live as Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man” on the moon, director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke captured their imagination with their groundbreaking film.

While it earned mixed reviews, it gained a cult following even if the ending left many baffled.

Martin Collins is the curator of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum exhibit celebrating the film’s 50th anniversary. It includes a recreation of the iconic hotel room from a scene intended to make you think, “are we alone in the universe and if we encounter extraterrestrial life, how might that experience change us as well?”

A new book from author Michael Benson, published by Simon and Schuster, a division of CBS, looks at the four-year production of the film.

“We’re still talking about “2001” 50 years later because for one thing, the film deals with four million years of human evolution,” he said.

A year after “2001: A Space Odyssey” became a blockbuster, Arthur C. Clarke appeared on CBS News alongside Walter Cronkite to cover the launch of Apollo 11.

“I didn’t imagine it would be in my lifetime,” Clarke said during the broadcast.

Clarke, whose collection of works is now archived at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, said he was already thinking about travel to Mars and beyond. But Cronkite wanted an answer to the question on everyone’s mind, asking Clarke to explain the ending of the movie.

“Would you like to tell me what that is all about,” asked Cronkite.

“Ha, ha, no I don’t think we have the time,” replied Clarke with a laugh.

Fifty years later, the debate over the ending is still going.

The exhibit opens to the public on Sunday. It’s free, but if you want to avoid lines you’ll need a timed ticket.


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