an interstellar spacecraft in which multiple generations of passengers are born, live, and die before arrival at its destination
‘What I can’t understand is why, if the Builders had perfected suspended animation, they had to have personnel at all. Why not staff the Ship with men and women in deep-freeze, send off the Ship, and let them waken when they had arrived?’ ‘First, there are two ways by which men can reach the stars. One is by suspended animation as you have suggested, the other is by generation ship, which this is. We have combined both and so avoided the weaknesses inherent in either. The generation ship depends on new blood replacing the old, but the danger is that the new blood will forget what it should remember. Sixteen generations is a long time, Jay. Even with continual use of educational tapes it is still hard for some people to accept the fact that the Ship is nothing but a metal can drifting in the void. To them the Ship is the universe and they just can’t imagine anything possibly being bigger. The Deep-freeze method is just as bad. Then the personnel have to rely wholly on automatic machinery, even as we do, but they are far more vulnerable than a generation ship could ever be. And there is another thing. We still aren’t certain that they will be fertile after deep-freeze. The animals are, the men and women should be, but no one has ever rested in suspended animation for more than three hundred years before. It was a chance we dared not take.’
There are few more stirringly imaginative themes in science fiction than that of the generations-ship—the spaceship whereby man may cross the light-years separating us from the stars, even at speeds much less than that of light, creating a self-sufficient microcosm in which the great-great-…-great-grandchildren of the original voyagers may at last make planet-fall. ]
Stapledon birthed the interplantetary culture of Starmaker, relying on (1) century-long travel at sub-light speeds—though often this was not a case of generation-ships, since he often assumed vast longevity.
By the time the ten remaining-generation-ships [sic] arrived in the Leffer System, Earth had already established a going-business [sic] of trade and cultural exchange, which was already a hundred or so years old, with scores of planetary systems. ]
For those who stay this side of the light barrier there remains the ‘travelling ark’ (or ‘generation ship’)—a vehicle designed for centuries of flight (often in order to escape from a doomed Earth), in which several generations live and die before eventual landfall.
You've read the stories of generation ships where something went wrong and everybody slipped back to savagery?
It was the oldest of the original EEC generation ships still in space.
Even a hypothetical matter-antimatter drive can only attain twenty percent of the speed of light at its maximum velocity, and there is no reason to believe that the Cooties had developed technology of that magnitude. But if they made the journey in a generation-ship or in suspended animation…
It was probably Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who first saw the necessity for using generation starships in the colonization of other worlds; he presented the idea in ‘The Future of Earth and Mankind’, which was published in a Russian anthology of scientific essays in 1928 but may have been conceived even earlier. Tsiolkovsky here argued for the construction in the future of space-going ‘Noah’s Arks’: he envisaged such journeys as taking many thousands of years.
He could have lived with a universe whose interstellar gulfs could be crossed only with generation ships, cold-sleep or ramscoops.
Sky’s Edge, of course, was another case entirely. It was the only world that had ever been settled by generation ship. There were some mistakes you didn’t make twice.
In this version of it, Earth sends forth ships to the stars at speeds that are, according to our present knowledge, more or less realistic, at least potentially attainable. Such a ship takes decades, centuries, to get where it’s going. No Warp Nine, no time-dilation—just real time. In other words, this is a generation-ship story.
Even if most had left, there would be ones who remained behind. Humanity never thought with a single mind. And if they had left on generation ships, there would be those who turned around and came back.
E.C. Tubb, 'Star Ship'
Last modified 2020-12-20 19:55:15
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.