sleeper ship n.

a spaceship in which most or all of the passengers are in some form of suspended animation such as cold sleep in order to avoid aging during a very long voyage


  • 1968 J. Blish Star Trek 2 107 James Blish

    ‘I've got it!’ Maria said suddenly. ‘It’s a sleeper ship!’ This meant nothing to Kirk, but McCoy said: ‘Suspended animation?’ ‘Yes. They were necessary for long space trips until about the year 2018. They didn’t have the warp drive until then, so even interplanetary travel took them years. We'll find crewmen in there, or passengers, sleeping, waiting for the end of their journey’.

  • 1988 S. Jackson & W. A. Barton Gurps Space (1990) 86/1

    Sleeper ships, colonists are frozen in suspended animation. This is the most economical method, as more colonists and their supplies can be contained in a ship. Such ships might be computer-controlled, with hundreds or thousands of freeze tubes, holds full of the equipment the colonists will need, and shuttlecraft to get them down to their new home.

  • 2002 T. Zahn Manta's Gift ix. 131 Timothy Zahn

    They didn’t arrive by huge colony or sleeper ships or anything else slower-than-light—

Research requirements

antedating 1968

Earliest cite

J. Blish 'Space Seed'

Research History
Edward Bornstein submitted a cite from a 1990 reprint of Steve Jackson and William Barton's "GURPS SPACE". Jonathan Dale verified the cite in the 1988 first edition. Imran Ghory submitted a cite from a 1992 reprint of Gene Coon and Carey Wilbur's "Space Seed" in James Blish's print adaptation "Star Trek 2": Kevin Shelly verified this cite in the 1968 first edition. Douglas Winston submitted a 2002 cite from Timothy Zahn's "Manta's Gift".

We would like cites of any date from other sources.

Last modified 2021-01-05 20:42:50
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.