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"I operate by a code that makes me responsible for what I do, makes me definitely, directly, genuinely responsible. I am precisely the kind of person I made myself out to be."
- Harlan Ellison

TMA-1  
  The Tycho Monolith.  

The darkened assembly room became suddenly hushed and expectant as the picture on the screen changed. Though everyone had seen it many times, there was not a person who failed to crane forward as if hoping to find new details. On Earth and Moon, less than a hundred people had so far been allowed to set eyes on this photograph.

It showed a man in a bright red and yellow spacesuit standing at the bottom of an excavation and supporting a surveyor's rod marked off in tenths of a meter. It was obviously a night shot, and might have been taken anywhere on the Moon or Mars. But until now no planet had ever produced a scene like this.

The object before which the spacesuited man was posing was a vertical slab of jet-black material, about ten feet high and five feet wide: it reminded Floyd, somewhat ominously, of a giant tombstone. Perfectly sharp-edged and symmetrical, it was so black it seemed to have swallowed up the light falling upon it; there was no surface detail at all. It was impossible to tell whether it was made of stone or metal or plastic - or some material altogether unknown to man.

"TMA-1," Dr. Michaels declared, almost reverently. "It looks brand new, doesn't it? I can hardly blame those who thought it was just a few years old, and tried to connect it with the third Chinese Expedition, back in '98. But I never believed that - and now we've been able to date it positively, from local geological evidence.

"My colleagues and I, Dr. Floyd, will stake our reputations on this. TMA-l has nothing to do with the Chinese. Indeed, it has nothing to do with the human race - for when it was buried, there were no humans.

"You see, it is approximately three million years old. What you are now looking at is the first evidence of intelligent life beyond the Earth."

From 2001: A Space Odyssey , by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Del Rey in 1968
Additional resources -

TMA-1 stands for Tycho Magnetic Anomaly - One; that was how they found it.

The monoliths in Arthur C. Clarke's book and Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey were intended to be self-replicating probes, though the artifacts in "The Sentinel", Clarke's original short story upon which 2001 was based, were not. The film was to begin with a series of scientists explaining how probes like these would be the most efficient method of exploring outer space. Kubrick cut the opening segment from his film at the last minute.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from 2001: A Space Odyssey
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to 2001: A Space Odyssey
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

TMA-1-related news articles:
  - First Lunar Water, Then... Monolith?

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