Thursday, March 06, 2008

How to build a Generation Starship

Just read Mayflower II recently. it's probably been the best ever description of how a generation starship would actually work in practice, just like the Odyssey series were the best ever in the hibernation-tech travel. And if you think about it, it does make sense - unless you have a habitat the size of a continent, civilization will stagnate, degrade. You can't think in terms of weeks, months, years, even decades; can we plan centuries?

In that small a space, you have to think of not technical, not psychological, not even social issues. You have to think in civilizations. I see a whole new brand of ship's doctor coming up.

Hm - I guess I'm also beginning to see the reason for the holodeck and Deanna Troi, beyond the obvious eyecandy.

Conversely, if we have continent-sized habitats capable of interstellar travel, it makes the point kinda moot. Where do you go, when all you want is already here? Nobody would ever leave; any planet would always come a poor second to the ship itself. You could have roaming generation ships that travel to seed, and move on. Factoring in wear-and-tear issue resolution, of course. Or you could have seeders whose only purpose is to reach the next destination only to rebuild their ship, leave behind descendants, and move on.

Niven's Ringworld is a generation starship taken to the other extreme - a habitat that outclasses any source or destination at an exponential level.

Which brings us back to the Civilization Planner. We would either need supremely long-lived human beings, or Pak. Or we would need automated systems and frozen chromosomes, and independent failsafes of frozen repairmen when things went wrong.

That's possible. Shit, that's possible. We can start reaching the stars the day we have a reliable freezing tech.

Here's another alternate. One mother system that runs the ship. Multiple gene banks. Multiple equipment garages. And multiple independent modules whose only function would be to synthesize and grow trained repair personnel from the gene banks purely when the rest of the systems collapsed so catastrophically that they went out of the parameters of the autosystems. Sure, it'll take years to get the workers - but that's nothing in a journey span of millenia.

Interesting to think of what they would do afterwards, though.



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