Sign in to follow this  
OleB

The most important component of a real-life generationship

Recommended Posts

The most important component of a generationship will be The Crew , so I read up on how this component was designed i various SF stories and spacerelated games . It seems to be a very hot putonium-potato that most authors realy wants to stay far away from , exept when playing in teddybear-universes ....

Many authors could agree about some of the problems our Crew must face , which in the real life will be about living in a small and depressingly limited space-can while maintaining and re-manufactoring a lot of VERY complicated mashinery for at least 500 years , and probably a lot more .

In short the main problem will be to stay sane and focused for many generations .

Some SF stories has described how the failure to maintain an original culture would cause total failure , others have described how certain heroic individuals somehow have managed to overcome various crisis situations . Very few have incorporated the real-life economic necessity for limiting the creew to the absolute minimum . None that I could find realy focused on how to design a high quality Crew ,small but capable of delivering the goods . The only usefull clue is some vague ideas of a selection process where millions of people are screened and tested .

Selection of the best candidates is obvious , even todays astronauts are a good start , but this will not last for more than one or two generations . Very few exceptionaly capable individual have children of the same capabilities , after a few generations of natural breeding most of the Crewmembers wil more or less just be normal average humans .

So normal breeding is out...thats the hot plutonium-potato !

what we need then is total functional separation between the Crew and the colonists . The Crew must be designed while the colonists must be normal healthy people . Functional design of human beings is more or less a tabu- subject , but if we want to reach the stars this holy cow needs a good kick ..

Genetic engineering as a whole is far , far away from being capable of being much help in designing the Crew , exept for one specific disipline : Cloning of embryoes .

This would be a good place to remind everybody that a geneticly identical cloned person is exactly the same as a naturally ocuring twinn broter or sister !

If we imagine a selection process capable of finding a few hundred people perfect for Crew conditions , these same people can be born again every second or third generation ...this would mean that mothers would rarely give birth to their own biological children , they would give birth to another crewmembers parent or grandparent ...or perhabs their OWN !

If we acept this to be the logic shortcut to designing a crew , onely one real heavy problem remains : how to verify that a cloned crewmember behaves as well in the stressful tincan-environment as his original selected twinn....?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is also the problem of genetic degradation with your cloned crew. Not to mention that your crew will be more susceptible against bacteria and other things that still keep evolving against your defense system all that time. As soon as anti-biotics lose their effectiveness (as they have been currently with those superbugs cases) you are going to have a lot of dying people on hand.

Also, if you already have a bunch of kids from birth to adulthood training and adapting and learning about operating a spaceship, you are going to have some of the best astronauts ever, genetic be damned. The thing that we need to deal with on a generational ship is going to be psychological and social problems. How are you gonna manage the politics of a generational ship? The social structure? The culture? Think of what we already have to deal with on Earth, packed in a can, and launch to space with a lot of time to kill.

I am pretty sure there will be at least a mutiny attempt within 3 generation because some people doesn't agree on the destination.

It would be easier if we just load all people in cyrosleep chamber and let an AI do its job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The must important component of an generation ship will be the suspension-of-disbelief generator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A spacecraft like that would have a minimum population of at least enough to make sure there's enough genetic variation to keep everyone from going extinct. The expedition will probably take many millennia, so it has to bee its own self-sustaining ecosystem, with plenty of room for population expansion. So basically its a nice Cole-style space colony like we will probably have a few of in the 121st century, but as the payload on a gigantic interstellar rocket.

Why you would want to send them into interstellar space is a good question - I think the most likely answer is that we have discovered an extraterrestrial civilization, and have been communicating with them for a few thousand years or so. Eventually, I believe we will want to meet face-to-face, so one (or both) of us will send a piloted interstellar space mission. This is kind of spacecraft is probably the most realistic way to send a human being to another star system. Everyone loves cryo-sleep, but the trip times make it seem (to me) like you are just asking for some critical component to break down (and with no one to fix it) having your gift to the aliens bee a frozen human corpse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, cyrosleep is not going to be perfect, but at least it change our problems from social science to more...mechanical sciences?

Otherwise you gotta figure out a social structure and system that both prevent abuse of power as well as adequately keeping people content with their lives.

It is going to be manipulative at best and dystopian at worst. And either cases we are going to have dissentents that may jeopardize the whole mission.

Probably we might have to send a few ships in hope that one of them made it without the crew cannibalizing each others, practising human sacrifices for the metal gods, or all serving under the one true ruler of human kind - the great captain, and so on.

Feels easier to just have the robots take care of some sleeping meatsack.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The systems of such ship would be so complicated that there would nothing to do for human crew at all.

All humans would sleep all the way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the only way i see of making a generation ship viable is to make it really really big, big enough for a city sized population. big is good because you use that bulk to protect the humans living in the middle of it from radiation. besides habitation space (a centrifuge) and the infrastructure that supports it, the ship would be built mostly out of its own propellant in a frozen state. this eliminates large tankage structures, you can simply mine the exterior surface to feed the engines (which need to have a high isp). the engines can be some kind of electric propulsion, probibly using fusion reactors as a power source (not only engines but for life support, hydroponics and recycling infrastructure). im not sure if xenon ice would sublimate in interstellar space, or perhaps something more common like ammonia ice. water might also be used as a hydrogen storage medium (surplus oxygen can be either used for life support or vented overboard).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A generationship is not going to happen, we simply can't do it. Stop dreaming and get over it. If we mess up this planet there won't be any plan b, only extinction awaits us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^Wrong attitude.

I'm going to say: Power systems. You need some kind of energy source that can last for centuries, while producing a considerable amount of power still, and be insanely reliable, since you aren't sticking around near a Star for long.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess the text wasn't clear enough , just dreaming away !

About ''genetic degradation : This idea is a method to design a very small crew(perhabs 70 people ) that can survive for a very long time .The cloned crew exist as frozen embrioes until they are implanted in a female crewmemeber , who then give birth in the same way millions of ''test-tube' babies have already been born since 1987 . So far nothing has been found wrong with these, and the frozen embrioes have so far prooven heathy after at least 30 years of cryogenic suspension . So , the only kind of genetic degradation relevant is the one that might happen to the embrioes after having been frozen for a much longer time than the 30 years . If and when this would become a problem , it would be necessary to give give birth to as many crewmembers as possible , and re-clone them in order to start again whith a fresh embrio population. The advantage of this whole plan is that it does NOT demand any great breakthroughs , in opposition to cryosleep which may never become possible.

About disease control : The most effective plan I can imagine , is to divide the ship into at least 2 completely separate and independant units plus a carantine bay , each of which can be completely sterilized if necesary . ...hopefuly only after the healthy survivors has been evacuated !

About social structure , mutiny, politics and all that : the selection procses is the tool for dealing with this . One out of a million people will find this environment perfectly normal and stimulating , the problem is to identify these individuals by building an advanced selection process , perhabs a proces lasting for generations in it self ....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One out of a million people will find this environment perfectly normal and stimulating , the problem is to identify these individuals by building an advanced selection process

Easily! True MMORPG dwellers even won't notice any change. Just place enough game servers onboard and store enough internet resources.

Also this solves a quarantine problem and greatly reduces the ship volume.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A generationship is not going to happen, we simply can't do it. Stop dreaming and get over it. If we mess up this planet there won't be any plan b, only extinction awaits us.

The only spaceship is the one we are standing on. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
^Wrong attitude.

I'm going to say: Power systems. You need some kind of energy source that can last for centuries, while producing a considerable amount of power still, and be insanely reliable, since you aren't sticking around near a Star for long.

have to agree here, if you dont have power you aren't going anywhere. even if you are using npp you still need some kind of reactor on board to power the life support systems, food production, recycling, and possibly some industry (you are going to need to be able to make replacement parts and its not feasible to bring spares for everything, raw materials only). electric propulsion will even need more power.

im not sure how long you could keep a fission reactor going. you are going to need some kind of breeder or bring along a lot of surplus fuel. compact fusion reactor would be great, especially one with direct conversion. you will need to have the ability to completely rebuild the reactor(s) if neccisary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's possible to refine nuclear waste to a very high degree, and reuse it over and over again. I'm not sure though, but if that's the case, it may be cheaper to bring a refinery along.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just why would you want to segregate the - as noted, small - crew from the large colonist population, if you're concerned about crew quality? You have a large pool to choose successive crews from. If the crew is segregated, you definitely don't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If we develop the ability to freeze people for hundreds of years and wake them up without any brain damage , then of course ''cyrosleep'' might be the way to go. A generationship with a sleeping crew will demand the development of extremely smart ''maintenance'' robots who ,for at trip of at least 500 years, will have to not just maintain but also recycle and re-manufacture many of the ships major components, including the ability to manufacture ITSELF . A robot THAT smart might get ideas of its own .....this is far beyond any kind of present day tecknology and might prove itself either impossible or very very dangerous .

In contrast a well designed Crew does not need any major tecknologic breakthroughs . There will be lots of time and brainpower to deal with arising problems , many of which will be completely new ( we normaly dont build machines to last for more than 20 years ) , and demand intelligent decisions .

As for the ''manipulative'' and ''distopian'' problem , much remains to be done because nothing really HAS been done . Selecting the best fitted individuals for the crew will not be easy , but might go along way toward finding individuals who actually LIKE a confined environment and a limited social framework , where everybody knows everybody else very well .

History and anthropology can tell us that very small groups of people have lived normal lives on small isolated islands in the pacific for thousands of years without too many problems , because their culture was adapted to this situation . How this was possible should be a subject for research..

- - - Updated - - -

Nothing to do ? ever try to build a machine that should last for 500 years ? after 10 years even the best of ANY kind of machines need maintenance . After 50 years many parts will have to be recycled and re-manufactured , after 500 years much of the original materials will become dust particles which have to be trapped somewhere , in order to be recycled ...just to mention a few of the daily life jobs Crew will perform .

Sleeping all the way would be nice , but as long as this is far away from todays tecknology , we need a Plan B , otherwise we might never get anywhere .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just why would you want to segregate the - as noted, small - crew from the large colonist population, if you're concerned about crew quality? You have a large pool to choose successive crews from. If the crew is segregated, you definitely don't.

Exackly! Kind of like how we choose our astronauts from the large pool of potential astronauts in our population. People are making this harder than it has to bee!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If we develop the ability to freeze people for hundreds of years and wake them up without any brain damage , then of course ''cyrosleep'' might be the way to go. A generationship with a sleeping crew will demand the development of extremely smart ''maintenance'' robots who ,for at trip of at least 500 years, will have to not just maintain but also recycle and re-manufacture many of the ships major components, including the ability to manufacture ITSELF . A robot THAT smart might get ideas of its own .....this is far beyond any kind of present day tecknology and might prove itself either impossible or very very dangerous .

In contrast a well designed Crew does not need any major tecknologic breakthroughs . There will be lots of time and brainpower to deal with arising problems , many of which will be completely new ( we normaly dont build machines to last for more than 20 years ) , and demand intelligent decisions .

As for the ''manipulative'' and ''distopian'' problem , much remains to be done because nothing really HAS been done . Selecting the best fitted individuals for the crew will not be easy , but might go along way toward finding individuals who actually LIKE a confined environment and a limited social framework , where everybody knows everybody else very well .

History and anthropology can tell us that very small groups of people have lived normal lives on small isolated islands in the pacific for thousands of years without too many problems , because their culture was adapted to this situation . How this was possible should be a subject for research..

- - - Updated - - -

Nothing to do ? ever try to build a machine that should last for 500 years ? after 10 years even the best of ANY kind of machines need maintenance . After 50 years many parts will have to be recycled and re-manufactured , after 500 years much of the original materials will become dust particles which have to be trapped somewhere , in order to be recycled ...just to mention a few of the daily life jobs Crew will perform .

Sleeping all the way would be nice , but as long as this is far away from todays tecknology , we need a Plan B , otherwise we might never get anywhere .

There's nothing wrong with expecting solid-state technology located in deep space to last for decades (or longer) without any intervention at all... it's not like a car (which is subject to weather, dust, debris, roads, friction, moving parts, etc). The main problem is projectile encounters... micrometeorites (or even larger ones), though they *should* be far less common in deep space... and this would likely result in problems whether the crew's asleep or not... the best solution is probably some sort of auto-targeting weapon (like anti-missile tech).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A really big generationship would be perfect , but the probability of such a ship ever being build does not seem good in the foreseeable future... . Thats why we need a ''Plan B '' , which is the cheapest possible solution, demanding as few as possible tecknologic breakthroughs . As tecknology improoves in the coming decades , such a solution might become cheap enough to be financed WITHOUT counting on politicians to do the financing . Crowdfinancing would be the perfect solution , perhabs combined with som private sponsors hoping to improve their corporate image ...

The problem we need to solve is of course transplanting humanity to another star system , hopefully one without too many tall blue aliens ...

The problem of radiation might need a biologic solution . Some algae have incredible DNA-repairing genetic modules , sliding along the DNA chain while repairing with incredible speed . If a varaition of such a module could be grafted to human DNA , our generatioship would become much easier and cheaper to build -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One needs to remember that the reason sci-fi generation ships always go wrong, is because there wouldn't be much of a story otherwise. :P

The story "eh, everything was fine. People played videogames a lot", just isn't very much of a story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The social problem is further complicated by the fact that human changes, and social structures must also change along with it. Your chosen crew may be fine with your plan at first, but would their children? Would their grandchildren? Would their grand, grandchildren who by this time probably have no idea what their mission means anymore? What works for one generation may not carry over the next, sometimes changes are needed within even one generation. You may have an extremely good leaders on one generation, but you might have a bad one the next. You may have good crew that contribute to the survival and success of mission, you may have dissentients and saboteurs that ruin the whole thing. Your system must somehow limit the harm of the bad elements, support the good, maintaining is functionalities no matter how much changes it has to endure. A generation ship is not much different than a city-state, and it has to function as one for a long time without falling apart or straying from its original course.

It is going to be very difficult.

To recap, 3 things the social structure on a generation ship has to do:

1. Maintain its core directive to complete the mission it is sent out to do

2. Adapt to situation as they arise.

3. Sustain through generational change.

I am very sure there is a whole genre all about these kind of stuff in sci-fi.

- - - Updated - - -

One needs to remember that the reason sci-fi generation ships always go wrong, is because there wouldn't be much of a story otherwise. :P

The story "eh, everything was fine. People played videogames a lot", just isn't very much of a story.

I am pretty sure that is the story of WALL-E.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great ! We already found one perfect being , and he almost volunteers ! Send the guys with sunglases to collect and freeze him imeadiately !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I forgot what the name of the novel was, but there was this concept where the generation ship was made inside a hollowed out asteroid, spinning for artificial gravity, and the colonists were genetically engineered to have a sub-par intelligence so they'd be content with the primitive and monotomous lives they lived. The colonists were in divided in two tribes kept apart by a variety of obstacles, and the genetics were engineered in such a way that inter-tribe offset (not supposed to happen while traveling) would restore full brain capacity needed to colonize a planet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I forgot what the name of the novel was, but there was this concept where the generation ship was made inside a hollowed out asteroid, spinning for artificial gravity, and the colonists were genetically engineered to have a sub-par intelligence so they'd be content with the primitive and monotomous lives they lived. The colonists were in divided in two tribes kept apart by a variety of obstacles, and the genetics were engineered in such a way that inter-tribe offset (not supposed to happen while traveling) would restore full brain capacity needed to colonize a planet.

Interesting. I segregated out colonists in a slightly different way for my pet project Sci-fi. That one sounds even crueller! :o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even if the crew is frozen , many machines will have to keep working with moving parts , such as periodic attitude control for course corrections to avoid obstacles too big to vaporize or absorb into the shield of frozen fuel travelig in fornt of the ship , the cryo-system , periodic checkouts of all major systems including the main motor for braking . Even solid state state tecknology of the kinds we use today are slowly degraded by high energy particles. An auto-targeting system for vaporizing incoming projectiles ,or whatever, will have moving parts as well , and will demand maintenance and eventualy re-manufatoring.

The main idea I try to advance is for a ''Plan B'' which does not demand several major tecnoly breakthroughs and which can maitain itself for at last 500 years and probably alot more . .

The one big exception is the propulsion system , where a breaktrough IS needed , but this can be expected to happen as a byproduct of research into pellet-fusion for general energy purposes .

''Nothing more to remove'' can best be understood as the simplest possible solution to a given problem ... in this case the smallest possible crew capable of delivering our simplest possible starship with its cargo of a million frozen embryoes to another starsystem with at least a potentialy inhabitable planet.

- - - Updated - - -

A good story for an SF novel , but it would demand an almost infinite energy supply to moove such a heavy chunk up to 0.1- 0.2 lightspeed , which is our benchmark velocity . It would also demand an army of dangerously intelligent robots to maintain and operate the whole thing ...if the asteroid-ship travelled much slower than 0.1 light speed , it would only give the robots more time to mutate into enemies .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This thread is quite old. Please consider starting a new thread rather than reviving this one.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this