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Iconic '2001: A Space Odyssey' suit to hit auction block

A helmet worn in Stanley Kubrick's "2001 Space Odyssey", to be auctioned as part of the full suit in July 2020
A helmet worn in Stanley Kubrick's "2001 Space Odyssey", to be auctioned as part of the full suit in July 2020 Julien's Auctions/AFP
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New York (AFP)

The elusive "2001: A Space Odyssey" spacesuit believed to have been worn by Dr. David Bowman when he "killed" HAL in the groundbreaking 1968 film goes on the auction block next month.

The highlight of a Hollywood and space exploration memorabilia show that's set for July 17-18 in Beverly Hills, the spacesuit is conservatively estimated to fetch between $200,000 and 300,000.

It's a rare artifact from the classic by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, who is thought to have destroyed most of the props and wardrobe from "2001" -- widely regarded as one of most influential films of all time -- to prevent their use in other productions without his authorization.

According to Jason DeBord -- chief operating officer of Julien's Auctions, which is hosting the event -- the only other significant piece from the film to go up at auction was the Aries 1B Trans-Lunar Space Shuttle, which in the movie transported Dr. Heywood R. Floyd from the International Space Station to the moon.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- the organization behind the Oscars -- snagged that prop in 2015 for $344,000.

The spacesuit is especially sought after because it is believed to have been used in one of the film's most iconic scenes -- when Bowman destroys HAL 9000, a sentient computer that is killing the astronauts onboard to uphold its programmed mission.

Auctioneers believe this particular costume was used in that scene because its helmet has a base green layer of paint, the color of the helmet worn by Bowman, who was played by Keir Dullea.

The near complete spacesuit was likely worn by other actors as well, as the helmet also has layers of white and yellow paint.

Along with the helmet, the suit includes boots and an MGM shipping crate.

The piece was auctioned off in 1999 and has been in controlled storage for two decades.

"It just sort of fell off the face of the earth," DeBord told AFP. "It's kind of magical, because it's sort of a lasting artifact of the filmmaking process."

He said film buffs are hoping to track down a production plan of the Oscar-winning film to "align the different layers of paint with the shooting schedule, and possibly even get a little more specific about where it might have been used in the film."

"2001" received four Academy Award nominations and won for visual effects, an accolade for its pioneering techniques that included accurately portraying space flight.

In 1991, it was added to the National Film Registry, earmarked for preservation by the Library of Congress.

Among the more than 900 items going up for auction at the same event are the pilot control stick Neil Armstrong used on the Apollo 11 flight to the moon -- estimated to go for $100,000 to $200,000 -- and an Apollo-era spacesuit glove designed for Armstrong, estimated at $10,000 to $20,000.

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