An eternally orbiting monument to the early days of planetary exploration

From Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

“For the last time, Discovery’s main drive released its energies. For the last time, the incandescent fury of dying atoms blazed among the moons of Saturn. To David Bowman, the far-off whisper and rising thrust of the jets brought a sense of pride – and of sadness. The superb engines had done their duty with flawless efficiency. They had brought the ship from Earth to Jupiter to Saturn; now this was the very last time that they would ever operate. When Discovery had emptied her propellant tanks, she would be as helpless and inert as any comet or asteroid, a powerless prisoner of gravitation. Even when the rescue ship arrived a few years hence, it would not be an economical proposition to refuel her, so that she could fight her way back to Earth. She would be an eternally orbiting monument to the early days of planetary exploration”

This gives me an idea – several angles of an idea – for a story about future historic monuments in space – a future sort of national register. Maybe their upkeep – someone charged with maintaining them in shape and in orbit. Maybe tourism – a pilgrimage trail of mankind’s progress in exploration. There feels some just-ungraspable richness to this idea.

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