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Darrrius
2007-Feb-27, 04:59 PM
Hi

I was just wondering about the concept of Generation ships. If we were to ever produce generation ships with the intention of travelling the galaxy, would they be heavily armed to the teeth with the latest and most powerful weapons?

What would be the arguments for and against going "Tooled up"

stutefish
2007-Feb-27, 05:40 PM
For: The Boy Scout Motto, "be prepared".

Against: Added mass, added cost, low probability of finding someone who is neither so advanced that our weapons are useless nor so primitive that our weapons are unnecessary.

Anyway, an arms locker for security/law enforcement/peacekeeping purposes on board should suffice for small-scale conflicts.

Whatever earth-shaping/terraforming/weather control/power generation tools the ship brings for peaceful purposes should suffice for large-scale conflicts, at least planetside. For everything else, the best bet is probably to negotiate if possible, run if necessary, and stay away from any incorrigibly hostile neighbors.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think a proper generation ship would probably have the facilities and resources to manufacture any weapons they might need, to the limits of the technology available at the time of launch.

Doodler
2007-Feb-27, 05:41 PM
Arguement for: Be prepared. There's nothing wrong with an aggressive defense. It is NOT the same as a proactive defense.

Doodler
2007-Feb-27, 05:43 PM
Against: Added mass, added cost, low probability of finding someone who is neither so advanced that our weapons are useless Something's better than nothing.
nor so primitive that our weapons are unnecessary.Ain't no such animals.

JohnD
2007-Feb-27, 11:07 PM
This is ONE ship, yes?

What's the most powerful and well defended marine ship you can think of?
"Battleship"? "Aircraft carrier"?
In naval warfare theory, both are surrounded by a screen of smaller defending ships. Any reason why a space navy would think differently?

So we don't have a generation ship, but a generation fleet.
It could be extremely powerful - and be even more expensive than that generation ship.

But, this fleet, if it needs to defend itself, will be pitched against the entire forces of a planet, or even a solar system. In such a campaign, is it realistic to imagine that the Earth fleet could win? Lines of communication and supply? None. Means of restocking and rearming? None, unless we can setup mining bases for raw materials under attack from the home fleet. Means of replacing the men (in the human sense), weapons and machines lost in action? None, unless the G-ship is so big it includes a shipyard and all the supporting infrastructure, and can unfreeze fully trained soldiers on demand. Babies don't fight battles.
No fleet could win a battle under those constraints.

Even if it could, then for us to go to another solar system that had space travel and colonise it by force would be a crime against - well, not humanity but certainly 'sentiency'. That would also be true of a non-spacefaring society - it's their planet, not ours.

So in honour, we could only seek to colonise an uninhabited system.
Another exploratory civilisation that wanted it to take that too would be a reason to want defensive capability. But what a basis to set up a colony! No guarantee that the fleet will win, so a whole colony is risked, at enormous cost, far greater than a simple G-ship.
And, so far, there is no evidence of anyone else around, so it seems unlikely that there will be competition.

So no arms - no point.

John

Doodler
2007-Feb-27, 11:14 PM
Didn't think we were talking naval weapons, exclusively.

If its an inhabitable planet, lets hope the native wildlife is friendly, eh? You don't exactly encounter a lot of intelligent life in an African savannah, but you don't go unprotected, either. Depending on the adaptation patterns of native wildlife, you could need some extremely heavy caliber firepower. You don't exactly go deterring an animal as armored and psychotic as a rhino with a .22 or a 9mm.

Heavy caliber, semi-automatic, armor piercing. You don't need to waste ammo on spray-n-pray, but you don't want to be stuck with bolt action if you're dealing with multiple targets.

There are practical uses for weaponry, you see.

Rocket Man
2007-Feb-27, 11:31 PM
I don't think generational ships are really practical. How many people are willing to travel on a ship knowing that they, and many generations after them, will die in space? Also, many things can happen in the centuries long voyage. What if the people on board decide to change the mission or simply forget why they are in space in the first place?

Ronald Brak
2007-Feb-27, 11:41 PM
I figure if you have a nice comfy generation ship, what do you need a planet for?

As for weapons, I wouldn't reccomend it. Do you really want heavily armed people who may be completely nuts by the time they arrive in another system being our ambassadors? When you consider that people who volunteer for such a trip may be a little nutty to begin with who knows what will happen after a few hundred years of inbreeding. And it would be too tempting to use the weapons to zap earth on the way out. After all, if you liked earth, you wouldn't be leaving it now, would you?

Van Rijn
2007-Feb-28, 12:16 AM
Hi

I was just wondering about the concept of Generation ships. If we were to ever produce generation ships with the intention of travelling the galaxy, would they be heavily armed to the teeth with the latest and most powerful weapons?

What would be the arguments for and against going "Tooled up"

Don't forget the Kzinti lesson:

A reaction drive's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive.

If you have a starship with a reaction drive capable of getting from one star to another in less than many thousands of years, it is pretty much a weapon by default. You could, for example, push a KBO into an orbit that would intersect an unfriendly planet.

As for hand weapons, you'd better have decent manufacturing capability unless you are heading for a preexisting human colony, or you're doomed to failure.

BigDon
2007-Feb-28, 12:54 AM
I like Stutefish's answer.

Ilya
2007-Feb-28, 01:54 AM
I don't think generational ships are really practical. How many people are willing to travel on a ship knowing that they, and many generations after them, will die in space?

I may have an answer to this question (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=746270#post746270)

Toymaker
2007-Feb-28, 04:54 AM
How many people are willing to travel on a ship knowing that they, and many generations after them, will die in space?
Not necessarily I think-travel to nearest stars if they will have confirmed planets or asteroids, could take well below 100 years, perhaps even as "little" as 40-50 years with of course very, very advanced technology. That would be an epic journey, but people in theory could live to see their children set foot on new worlds. Considering advances in medicine and life expectancy increasing, some of them might even live a decades or so there as "elders" etc. But this is of course very "SF".

Besides personal weapons for potential riots or civil conflict, doubtfull any potential hostile encounter is possible. We will be likely be able to spot any civilisation if it exists on stars near us using new generation telescopes and technologies.

Argos
2007-Feb-28, 12:39 PM
I don't think generational ships are really practical. How many people are willing to travel on a ship knowing that they, and many generations after them, will die in space?

At least one.

JustAFriend
2007-Mar-01, 03:16 PM
A multi-generation ship may also have the advantage of Stealth....

One way to build one is to take a 100mile-in-diameter asteroid and start carving out decks 10 or 15 miles below the surface. If the "engines" are disguised after launch, then from the outside it would appear to just be another barren asteroid moving through space. The inhabitants would be safe from cosmic radiation and from being detected, unless they sent out signals on purpose.

Perhaps we should be looking closer at rogue asteroids moving through our own system.....

stutefish
2007-Mar-01, 06:04 PM
A generation ship may not be a colony ship, but rather a long-term self-sufficient habitat not unlike the Earth. If its inhabitants developed a culture that valued long-term goals and placed a high importance on handing a coherent Vision down from generation to generation, it could probably accomplish great things.

Also, consider that such a ship would probably be post-Singularity technology, and thus fully equipped with eternal life features such as consciousness-uploading, fully-customizeable and replaceable physical bodies, etc.

Heck, it might not even have "generations" at all, as we think of them today, just the same core group of original consciousnesses, evolving and spawning avatars and children and waldos and whatnot throughout its billenia-long exploration of the Galaxy.

Such ships would make planet-dwelling obsolete, and would probably arm themselves according to the whims and priorities of its inhabitants.

antoniseb
2007-Mar-01, 07:04 PM
Perhaps we should be looking closer at rogue asteroids moving through our own system.....

There haven't been any observed yet.

On the other hand, I agree that a hollowed out asteroid with an artificial biosphere and a some tool to sweep in Hydrogen as it travels for long term energy supply would be an interesting and relatively safe way to travel. Propulsion would be tough to create, but nanotech may supply some answers there.

eburacum45
2007-Mar-01, 07:05 PM
A multi-generation ship may also have the advantage of Stealth....

One way to build one is to take a 100mile-in-diameter asteroid and start carving out decks 10 or 15 miles below the surface. If the "engines" are disguised after launch, then from the outside it would appear to just be another barren asteroid moving through space. The inhabitants would be safe from cosmic radiation and from being detected, unless they sent out signals on purpose.

Perhaps we should be looking closer at rogue asteroids moving through our own system.....
If an alien society is building generation ships that pass through our system without stopping, then let them carry on. To decelerate a generation ship from interstellar cruisng speed would take a lot of energy, and we would almost certainly spot the exhaust as a bright source of light pointed roughly in our direction.

JohnD
2007-Mar-01, 11:03 PM
Doodler,
With the possible exception of being pursued in a parabolic orbit around a neutron star (I think Larry Niven, somewhere in the Protector stories), attacking a militarised space ship with a hand gun is RIDICULOUS! Of course colonists on a new planet might have to defend themselves against non-sentient attack. Now that WOULD require a "well regulated Militia"!

The OP referred to arming generation ships, not pop-guns carried by the inhabitants.

Will no one take up the debate, which is not about the technology or society of a G-ship, but its right, or not, to charge into an inhabited system and colonise it?
Clive of India stuff. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clive,_1st_Baron_Clive)

Darrius - you're lurking! You asked the Q; what do you think?

John

SolusLupus
2007-Mar-02, 02:33 AM
Doodler,
With the possible exception of being pursued in a parabolic orbit around a neutron star (I think Larry Niven, somewhere in the Protector stories), attacking a militarised space ship with a hand gun is RIDICULOUS!

He was using an analogy, I believe.

JohnD
2007-Mar-02, 12:48 PM
Lonewolf,
Please explain the analogy in "Depending on the adaptation patterns of native wildlife, you could need some extremely heavy caliber firepower. You don't exactly go deterring an animal as armored and psychotic as a rhino with a .22 or a 9mm."


I agree with him! (there's a thing!) The colony will need to hunt for meat at first, so weapons for that.

But what is Doodler inferring from this argument that is applicable to another situation? Doodler?

And Darrius? Hello?

John

3rdvogon
2007-Mar-02, 04:43 PM
I personally think that by the time our species is in a position to build generation ships that such a concept will have lost its meaning.

By that I mean that human generations as we now understand them will no longer be applicable. I strongly suspect that by the 22nd century (which is likely to be the earliest we are likely to consider sending humans beyond our own solar system) biology will have advanced so much here on earth that the humans being born (if birth will be the right word to use by then) will be vastly different from the humans of today. They might outwardly look very much like we do now but will almost certainly have life expectancies running into centuries. Furthermore their minds will probably directly interface through some nanotech implant into a sort of www mind-web or similar, thus allowing them to upload, download and archive themselves to various hosts as and when the need arises.

Therefore with this pooled brain power we may have developed the means to cross interstellar distances at velocities much closer to C than we might consider possible today. That combined with lives running into centuries could mean that a single "generation" could make several interstellar voyages or alternatively several out and return interstellar trips between earth and another star system.

However if we put that aside for a moment and just assume that we will build a vessel to carry genetically unaltered 21st century humans to another star system at a modest speed taking perhaps 1,000 years to make the crossing. Then we need to consider the following factors.

1. Whilst they might carry some human embryoes in cold storage for use on arrival then they will need a large enough gene pool amongst the living to maintain a healthy breeding working population. Therefore there will need to be a lot of them.

2. They will need to produce adequate quantities of food in a closed cycle environment which will function for 1,000 years. this means having a fully balanced ecosystem onboard. All of which suggests if not a hollowed out asteroid then certainly a very large O'Neill cylinder.

3. As a result what you have is not so much a ship but a self propelled colony. That colony would be subject over the 1,000 years to all the social/political pressures that human communities have had on earth. Which in turn can lead to different factions with different priorities, different beliefs and so on all of which can lead to conflict if not civil war.

Now I am not sure that it would be a good idea to offer the inhabitants of such a vessel "the right to keep and bear arms". In fact that could be a recipe for disaster. Perhaps we should not provide them with the means to wage war on one another too easily.

Now if all-out conflict were to develop during the first couple of generations after departure. Then the cultural history carried with them from their time on earth along with the technical knowhow to start manufacturing weapons would certainly be there. However it is likely that these homemade weapons whilst still lethal might be less distructive on a large scale than any factory made ones that could have been brought with them from earth.

Furthermore, it would be reasonable to think that the risk of all out war breaking out among the early generations might be relatively low. They would after all still have the cultural ties to earth along with their sense of mission and purpose handed down through grandparents and greatgrandparents. However as you go further up the generations that sense of purpose tied to the past would weaken in which case their own issues and local disputes would become more important to them.

In fact the more they forget about earth and their reason for being on the vessel the more likely social and political breakdown will occur. that will also go "hand in glove" with a loss of knowledge about earth's past its conflicts, its military and probably much of its weapons technology. Thus you could see a situation where maybe 700 years after departure from earth you have several rival highly superstitious, post industrial, low tech communities ready to fight one another but forced to resort to inventing their own weapons. In such circumstances it would be better that they go to war with one another with bows, arrows and swords and not a stockpile of nicely stored shrink wrapped 21st century assault rifles. At least that way the chances of some of them being alive at the end to found the new colony might be greater.

EvilEye
2007-Mar-02, 05:03 PM
Armed with what? How do we know ahead of time whether anything that works here would be effective when we got there?

Doodler
2007-Mar-02, 05:10 PM
He was using an analogy, I believe.

Nope, I personally believe that ship to ship combat at relativistic interstellar speeds, or even velocities that would be reasonable for interplanetary travel are quite impractical. LEO slugfests might have some traction, but even then, with the distances and timeframes involved, unless you're using some directed energy weapon, you're likely going to end up spewing a buttload of ammo to little effect. If you are using directed energy weapons, you've got an effective range of plus or minus a lightsecond before the delay makes the possibility of even minor fluctuations in the targets course too severe to get a solid hit landed. Even then, at those distances, attenuation's going to seriously impact the amount of damage your system can do at any given distance, so despite targeting ability, you could be limited to a fraction of lightsecond in range, which really makes space weapons of limited impact, unless you're practically in the same orbital plane as the intended target.

Worse, the fallout from space combat in low orbit could render a planet unapproachable as the debris of exploding spacecraft spread over the equatorial plane. Imagine having to land on Earth if you had to pass through the equivalent of Saturn's B-ring on every approach?

Unless your level of technology is something akin to the worse forms of scifi handwaving that we've come up with, space combat's likely a lot less common than we imagine.

stutefish
2007-Mar-02, 06:21 PM
Armed with what? How do we know ahead of time whether anything that works here would be effective when we got there?

Well, so long as the underlying physical properties are the same there as they are here, there are certain fundamental principles that should hold true there as they do here.

Namely, that the application of sufficient force will bring about a destructive result. At this basic level, anything can be a weapon, so long as you can bring sufficient force to bear.

Even if the aliens have a forcefield that shields their planet, a rogue asteroid could still overload it, and "rogueing" an asteroid is a relatively simple proposition (for any civlization advanced enough to build a "generation ship" in the first place).

Obviously, an alien civilization may be able to muster more force in their defense than the g-ship can muster in offense, either through access to more resources, or through even greater technological advancements. Thus, the answer to "armed with what" is probably "armed with the most advanced energy-collection and force-application technologies available to the g-ship at time of launch or at the time of its most recent upgrade".

Since these technologies would probably already make up part of the g-ship's drive mechanism (already pointed out), we can probably consider the g-ship armed by default, and simply awaiting the undesireable possibility that its peaceful purpose is derailed by violent opposition.

eburacum45
2007-Mar-02, 09:44 PM
.

Even if the aliens have a forcefield that shields their planet, a rogue asteroid could still overload it, and "rogueing" an asteroid is a relatively simple proposition (for any civlization advanced enough to build a "generation ship" in the first place).


I think this idea might need a little more exploration, if I may be so bold.

I can't think of any practical type of force field which could stop an asteroid; magnetic fields and so on are very useful for protecting against tiny charged particles, even relativistic ones, but no good at all against massive lumps of rock. On the other hand, a powerful laser or particle beam might be expected to shatter any arbitrary size of projectile if you make that beam powerful enough; an advanced alien civilisation may well have such powerful active defences (especially if they feel threatened).
Throw enough rocks fast enough and you may well overcome even the most comprehensive defences.


However we shouldn't assume that a generation ship would be able to achieve this rain of rocks easily. Do you want to stop the ship in the Oort cloud, and navigate around in the outer system looking for rocks to throw? This deceleration would take a lot of energy for such a large ship, then the trips around the outer system would need a lot of energy; so would accelerating the rocks concerned, and the eventual reacceleration of the giant ship into the inner system will be another drain on the resources of a craft which has been conserving energy for perhaps hundreds of years in interstellar space.

To adjust the orbit of any outer system object would not be trivial, either; the pull of gravity is small out there, but it would need specialised equipment. Perhaps the ship itself could 'nudge' up against the object and apply thrust directly; but this would need careful design to avoid damage in what would effectively be a controlled collision.

Or you could use a gravity tug; I have made an image of one here in Celestia
http://img253.imageshack.us/img253/8488/gravitytug2yx5.jpg
the rig is pulling a mass of ballast at the end of a long tether, which itself attracts (and is attracted by) the asteroid itself.

But if you employ either method, you have to come prepared in advance; basically you are armed, and willing to use force if necessary.

EvilEye
2007-Mar-05, 08:52 PM
Not for nothing, but we could build a generation ship now. Technology isn't the problem. Money is.

JohnD
2007-Mar-05, 11:40 PM
Eburacum,
Quote,"Even if the aliens have a forcefield that shields their planet, a rogue asteroid could still overload it"

So you ARE planning to colonise the alien's planet? In this case by crushing their civilisation with space rocks and taking what's left, if there is any after the nuclear winter that follows. And if you want to hide behind a 'discussion of what could happen to us', please point to the parts of your post that indicate that.

Haven't we got beyond the Colony and Empire stage of civilisation?
John

Doodler
2007-Mar-05, 11:48 PM
Haven't we got beyond the Colony and Empire stage of civilisation?
John

Who are you kidding? That phase of social development has passed on Earth for simple lack of opportunity and globalization. Give us another globe to work with, and watch it start right back up again like we never stopped the first time.

stutefish
2007-Mar-06, 12:34 AM
Eburacum,
Quote,"Even if the aliens have a forcefield that shields their planet, a rogue asteroid could still overload it"

So you ARE planning to colonise the alien's planet? In this case by crushing their civilisation with space rocks and taking what's left, if there is any after the nuclear winter that follows. And if you want to hide behind a 'discussion of what could happen to us', please point to the parts of your post that indicate that.

Haven't we got beyond the Colony and Empire stage of civilisation?
John
Why put such an interpretation on it?

Perhaps the G-ship has no imperialistic intentions at all, being a fully self-contained and self-sufficient "colony" of its own. Mayhap it enters an interesting star system, in order to investigate certain readings which suggest intelligent life in that system. Arriving full of hope and anticipation of a peaceful and rewarding exchange of cultures, it instead encounters an isolationist and hostile civilization, whose immediate response is to launch weapons against the G-ship from behind the safety of the forcefields which protect its military-industrial complex.

Of course, armament in such a scenario might be less desireable than simply leaving the system with all possible speed.

ZaphodBeeblebrox
2007-Mar-06, 01:02 AM
Eburacum,
Quote,"Even if the aliens have a forcefield that shields their planet, a rogue asteroid could still overload it"

So you ARE planning to colonise the alien's planet? In this case by crushing their civilisation with space rocks and taking what's left, if there is any after the nuclear winter that follows. And if you want to hide behind a 'discussion of what could happen to us', please point to the parts of your post that indicate that.

Haven't we got beyond the Colony and Empire stage of civilisation?
John
You Want to Fiind a Way to Take Out a Neighbouring Planet ...

ALL you Hafta Do, Is Use The One-Way Inter-Stellar Fiirst-Striike ...

Get a Two Ton Mass and Ramp it Up to .1c, Instant Gigaton Explosion!

:wall:

Darrrius
2007-Mar-06, 12:53 PM
Doodler,


Darrius - you're lurking! You asked the Q; what do you think?

John

Hiya - sorry for not getting back to this thread sooner! Some real thought provoking answers.

On one hand, Arming the ship with the latest weaponry of the time would seem the most sensible option, as we would not want to go all that way only to discover hostile life forms and have no way of protecting ourselves.

However, going out there fully armed might be our downfall. For example there may be life forms out there that will destroy anything that has any hint of advanced weaponry, and will only engage in conversation with nueteral ships.

This is all just pure speculation, but if we ever do decide to send G-ships or something similar with humans, these kind of decisions will have to be made.

JohnD
2007-Mar-06, 01:21 PM
Who are you kidding? That phase of social development has passed on Earth for simple lack of opportunity and globalization. Give us another globe to work with, and watch it start right back up again like we never stopped the first time.

Really? I'd like to hear what the UN and the International Court of Justice had to say to any nation that went that way, and the International Criminal Court to any individual or corporate individual that did the same.

Turn it around and see how how you would feel.

John

Ilya
2007-Mar-06, 01:27 PM
Really? I'd like to hear what the UN and the International Court of Justice had to say to any nation that went that way, and the International Criminal Court to any individual or corporate individual that did the same.

"The UN" is not an entity in itself -- it is a collection of governments, each of them acting in their own selfish interests. The only time UN gets anything done is when all or most of those interests coincide -- which is why it so rarely gets ANYTHING done. If colonization of another planet is in the interests of most member governments -- or just of ONE permanent member of the Security Council, -- the UN won't do anything about it.

BTW, I use the word "governments" rather than "nations" because most of the world's nations are still run by thugs no different in organization or mentality from your neighborhood drug gang. UN representative from Zimbabwe does not represent "Zimbabwe nation" -- he represents Godfather Mugabe. Ditto for every other country with "president for life" or such. Continuous pretense otherwise is why I despise UN.

Doodler
2007-Mar-06, 05:17 PM
Really? I'd like to hear what the UN and the International Court of Justice had to say to any nation that went that way, and the International Criminal Court to any individual or corporate individual that did the same.

Turn it around and see how how you would feel.

John

Hard to turn around, I live on top of the pile. I also don't live under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Now, as for what that spineless, toothless, pointless, and otherwise cowardly body known as the United Nations has to say about colonialism, I offer you a one word question thrown with as much spite and venom as I have the ability to muster (aimed squarely at those self righteous fools in New York).

Tibet?

Don't tell me colonialism and imperialism are dead, I know better.

SolusLupus
2007-Mar-06, 08:40 PM
Tibet?

Stop! You'll ruin the illusion!

sts60
2007-Mar-06, 08:50 PM
As to the original question -

shotguns, sidearms, and .50 cal for unfriendly un-sentients.

Lawyers for the rest. :)

ZaphodBeeblebrox
2007-Mar-07, 12:04 AM
As to the original question -

shotguns, sidearms, and .50 cal for unfriendly un-sentients.

Lawyers for the rest. :)
Whoa, That's Against The Geneva Convention ...

Seriously Though, My Cousin's a Lawyer ...

Why he BIT a Rattlesnake Juust Laast Week!

:wall:

joema
2007-Mar-08, 03:37 PM
...take a 100mile-in-diameter asteroid and start carving out decks 10 or 15 miles below the surface. If the "engines" are disguised after launch, then from the outside it would appear to just be another barren asteroid moving through space...
In space, it turns out to be almost impossible shield yourself from detection by a sophisticated opponent. The space backdrop is nearly absolute zero. Everything generating power radiates heat. The heat filters through the asteroid and warms it. Even our primitive technology today can detect people inside buildings via infrared, and that's at room temperature. More info: http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/rocket3w.html#nostealth

Regarding the utility of weapons, this has been addressed by Carl Sagan and others. The probability of encountering a technologically advanced alien civilization on a competitive technological level is almost zero.

It makes for great dramatic storytelling, and we are saturated with that. What fun is a book or movie where one side is vastly superior to the other?

Yet the facts are even on earth, a single current U.S. aircraft carrier could defeat the entire U.S. military of World War II. Excluding nuclear weapons, the U.S. military from today could soundly defeat the U.S. military from only 25 years ago.

Over the vast spans of time hypothetical intelligent races might exist, in 99.99% of cases one side would simply be vastly more advanced than the other. Weapons would be irrelevant. There would be no "Independence Day", or "War of the Worlds" lucky weakness. That's very different from science fiction but is more likely reality.

That said, if there were swampy jungles on Venus (as thought earlier in the 20th century), it seems plausible astronauts would carry some kind of "varmint" weapon, just in case.

DOOMMaster
2007-Mar-09, 04:20 AM
I'd like more info on what the original poster means by "armed." Arming the ship itself with weapons (like a battleship, aircraft carrier?) or does he mean carrying weapons such as small arms for the passengers?

If it's the former, I'd see little point. Unless we manage to come up with a revolutionary method of propulsion, we really can't afford to waste the energy necessary to propel the ship with all the added mass of ship weapons. Besides, if we actually met with a threat in space, it is unlikely those weapons would prove very effective.

In regard to small arms, it would be a good idea to have weapons available if the passengers intend on colonizing a planet. Even if the Earth didn't have sentient life, we still have MANY dangerous animals that could prove lethal to any potential colonists. And if the planet does have sentient life, there is no way of knowing if it is friendly or hostile. Being prepared with small arms (and even larger weapons wouldn't be a bad idea either) would only be prudent.

As for weapons onboard the ship, they probably should be limited to use for colonization. While I'm one of the biggest proponents of private citizen ownership of firearms, here on Earth we don't have to worry about shooting a hole in our hull and venting all our air into a vacuum. Even though a colony ship would most certainly have a thicker hull than the space shuttle or an Apollo capsule, most firearms have more than enough power to punch through any materials that might be used for a colony ship's hull (unless it's some really heavy armor, which would probably be too much mass to use). Shotguns loaded with rubber shot would be about as high as you'd want to go for projectile weapons on a spaceship.

Spacer X
2007-Mar-09, 07:33 AM
Regarding the utility of weapons, this has been addressed by Carl Sagan and others. The probability of encountering a technologically advanced alien civilization on a competitive technological level is almost zero.

Over the vast spans of time hypothetical intelligent races might exist, in 99.99% of cases one side would simply be vastly more advanced than the other. Weapons would be irrelevant.
Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.

eburacum45
2007-Mar-09, 12:59 PM
One assumption that the generation ship concept seems to make is that the population of the ship must be large; this need not be true. Instead of carryying a breeding population of hundreds or thousands, all that might be required is a couple of dozen and a load of frozen gametes or zygotes. I suspect that in a hundred years time, or less, it will be possible to synthesise digitised DNA to be incorporated into new fertilised gametes. Using such digitised genetic material the gene pool of even a small population could be extended as much as necessary.

There might still be a limitation on how small a generation ship could be; the concept includes a sealed biosphere, basically a Closed Ecological Life Support System. Sealed Biospheres might be difficult to keep stable if they are too small; bad experiences have been had in the past. But I think this is an energy and resources problem in the end; by expending precious stored energy or replacing failed crops with new ones out of storage, even an ailing biosphere could be rescued.

publiusr
2007-Mar-09, 11:11 PM
That still needs a pretty big craft--one more reason for HLLVs

Warren Platts
2007-Mar-10, 02:59 AM
While I'm one of the biggest proponents of private citizen ownership of firearms, here on Earth we don't have to worry about shooting a hole in our hull and venting all our air into a vacuum. Even though a colony ship would most certainly have a thicker hull than the space shuttle or an Apollo capsule, most firearms have more than enough power to punch through any materials that might be used for a colony ship's hull.

No, it would be much better to have a really thin skin. Things will penetrate, but they will just go straight through, allowing easy fixes.

A true generation ship would be a balloon with a nanocarbontube fabric. Someone suggested using a 100 km asteroid for a generation ship. But for the same mass, think of this:

For that amount of mass, my back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that you could create a gaseous habitat with a 500,000 km diameter. Clearly, that's crazy.

So let's just settle for a 100 km diameter gaseous habitat that has 5,000 times less mass than a 100 km asteroid.

Toymaker
2007-Mar-10, 08:04 AM
You use ice for shield against impacts. I think it is more practical.

pizzaguy
2007-Mar-10, 06:57 PM
I know I am new here - but "Generation Ships" appear to be just well - written science fiction. I can think of a multitude of reasons why such a mission is doomed to failure.

But to answer the question, I DO think arming oneself would be a good idea. The human body is a rather fragile thing! The earth itself has many creatures against which I'd not have a chance. I suspect the "average planet" with life would be the same.

Spacemad
2007-Mar-11, 12:37 AM
Has nobody read " Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke?
Rama was a kind of generation ship that passed through our solar system but there was no form of biological life that could be detected by the people who investigated it. Everything thing seemed to work automatically. Somewhere in its vast interior perhaps there were life forms that had been "digitalised", as suggested by a previous poster to this thread. But this "visitor" from another world passed through our system, using Sol as a refuelling station while it continued on its way to its unknown goal.
Perhaps our technology may arrive at that point someday & we will be capable of taking ourselves to another solar system with an inhabitable planet for our species.

No armament would be necessary as the ship would be to all intents & purposes just a robotic probe devoid of life.

No generation ship would risk approaching an inhabited system, especially if that system has space faring inhabitants!

In a G-ship, I would imagine that the great majority of its inhabitants would be frozen embryos - very much easier to protect & conserve than a complete human society awake & living, for what? If & when a suitable world were found then the embryos could be thawed out. It would make little difference another 20 - 30 years orbiting a new world while the generation of new borns grew to physical maturity. In fact as soon as a suitable world were devised a small proportion of embryos could be revived & so be the first to "prepare" for the "disembarkation" of the main populace. All knowledge for auto sufficiency would be stored onboard as would all necessary implements for agriculture. Embryos of animals would also be stored in the same way as seeds for agriculture.

Weapons should not be needed for such a G-ship as, for the most part, there would be no need for a conscious crew, as, like in "2001: A Space Odyssey", computers, (hopefully more competent at looking after their human cargo than HAL), would direct all the functions of the ship, awakening a select number of crew once the criterion for encountering a new, Earthlike world were met.

eburacum45
2007-Mar-11, 12:44 PM
I can think of a multitude of reasons why such a mission is doomed to failure.Good. Thinking of potential difficulties is very useful. Any particularly tricky ones you might like to point out? You never know, we might be able to hash out a solution or two.

Toymaker
2007-Mar-13, 05:48 PM
Any particularly tricky ones you might like to point out? You never know, we might be able to hash out a solution or two.

Well, I have some problems. This topic is one of my favourite hobbies.

1-speed and impacts. I believe it is unlikely that a ship can go faster then 25% the speed of light, IIRC from discussions on other forums, faster speed will mean impacts of such power that they will destroy the ship.
2-I was wondering about the design of the ship, how would it slow down near another star system-would you need complicated manouvers, engines on front ?

Sleepy
2007-Mar-13, 08:03 PM
Well, I have some problems. This topic is one of my favourite hobbies.

1-speed and impacts. I believe it is unlikely that a ship can go faster then 25% the speed of light, IIRC from discussions on other forums, faster speed will mean impacts of such power that they will destroy the ship.Getting to .25c would take a phenomenal amount of power and an even more phenomenal amount of propellent. Also getting to .25c means that journy times are short enough the Generational ships aren't required. Impacts of hydrogen at that speed aren't a problem but at higher velocities they do start to produce excessive amounts of radiation
2-I was wondering about the design of the ship, how would it slow down near another star system-would you need complicated manouvers, engines on front ?Why? You just rotate and use your main engines to slow down. Considering your coasting for most of the journey this isn't a problem.

Toymaker
2007-Mar-13, 08:55 PM
Getting to .25c would take a phenomenal amount of power and an even more phenomenal amount of propellent. Also getting to .25c means that journy times are short enough the Generational ships aren't required.
Hmm, from what I recall plausible technological advances could allow 0.2 c (disregarding small probes which could use some kind of solar or other energy sails to travel faster).
What about slowing down ? Would it require amount of time so that the mission time would be longer in significant way ?
If I am correct travel to Alpha Centauri would take circa 20 years of 40 if I am correct as to slowing down time ?
This still would be "generation ship" as at least two generations would be born...

Warren Platts
2007-Mar-13, 09:02 PM
No need to slow down. The main ship is there just to provide a livable habitat for however long the journey takes. But once you get there, you jettison the main ship and use a small escape pod to slow down and land.

Sleepy
2007-Mar-14, 01:44 AM
If I am correct travel to Alpha Centauri would take circa 20 years of 40 if I am correct as to slowing down time ?
This still would be "generation ship" as at least two generations would be born...Assuming constant acceleration/breaking to/from mid point and ignoring relativity and any difference in velocity between the two stars, I make the time for the journey 31.6 years. So the initial crew would still be alive. Thus its not a generational ship as the launch crew are still alive to carry out the mission.

No need to slow down. The main ship is there just to provide a livable habitat for however long the journey takes. But once you get there, you jettison the main ship and use a small escape pod to slow down and land.You'd need a drive system that modern physics can't begin to imagine to accomplish that task. Even the drive to accelerate and decelerate the 0.25c ship is beyond the realm of what modern physics believes is possible.

Bearded One
2007-Mar-14, 02:57 AM
A true Generation Ship would most likely include manufacturing and recycling facilities. If, as the ship neared a system, it was determined that weapons were necessary then they would be manufactured. No real need to equip them at the start of the journey.

Warren Platts
2007-Mar-14, 01:41 PM
You'd need a drive system that modern physics can't begin to imagine to accomplish that task. Even the drive to accelerate and decelerate the 0.25c ship is beyond the realm of what modern physics believes is possible.

That's what I'm saying. However you get it launched and up to speed, there's no need to slow the whole thing down once you get there. All you have to slow down is a little landing craft. In reality, half the crew could disembark at the targeted planet whilst the rest of the crew could continue on to the next system.

m1omg
2007-Jul-11, 03:00 PM
Who are you kidding? That phase of social development has passed on Earth for simple lack of opportunity and globalization. Give us another globe to work with, and watch it start right back up again like we never stopped the first time.

:mad::mad::mad:

Irishman
2007-Jul-11, 09:30 PM
Warren_Platts, you are proposing pitching a large part of the mass, and slowing down a much smaller vehicle for landing and colonization. In theory, that would provide you with much less acceleration required than the original acceleration.

However, it does not seem very practical. The expected colonization for a generation ship is to go to an empty planet and tame it. Even assuming you got a planet that is default human habitable (temp range, air pressure, breathable air mix, etc), you still have the nifty problem of having plants and animals that are bio-digestible. It would really suck to go to a planet that has plenty of plant matter but you cannot extract calories from it, and starve.

Okay, assume it's the ideal "Earth mirror" planet, complete with animals and plants that are 100% digestible, no more toxic than the variety of life on Earth, and easy to capture/tame/harvest. Now you're putting down your crew into a wilderness and telling them to have at it. They're really going to want some resources and time to establish a livable colony, farms, power plants, etc ad nauseum. That is why you keep your G-ship around - it not only is the transport to the new planet, it is the major source of power, industry, and resources until you can build appropriate facilities on your planet.

So how much of your space vessel is ejectable mass that is not required for colony establishment? I would be surprised to find more than 10% of the mass. That number seems ludicrously high in my opinion. Shedding 10% of your mass does not significantly reduce the required acceleration, and I figure the 10% most likely to spare is propulsion. But then how do you slow the rest down?

TrAI
2007-Jul-11, 10:12 PM
Hmmm... Shipmounted weapons?

Well, It may be unlikely that you would ever have to fight against another ship at relativistic speeds, but there are things that can be useful both as tools and as weapons.

guided and unguided rockets could have many uses, depending on what you put in them, scientific instruments, explosives, just mass...

And both energy and kinetic point defence systems might be used both to protect from or deflect space debree and attacking things, just because you have a thick armor to protect your ship, you still might want to prevent impacts to save armor.

Big guns might be useful too, if you could make something that could deflect or even annihilate things in front of the ship, you could perhaps save some armor on that.

With small space craft saving some mass is a good thing, but large colonization ships would represent quite an investment in time, resources, labour, life and what not, I would think you would rather have them overengineered and overequiped, rather than having it fail just because you could save some mass on the paper.

As for not looking threatning, well, a big block of ice traveling at relativistic speed towards your solar system will be regarded as a threat before you could identify any weapons. And anyway, how you would identify a weapon on an alien ship is a point in itself...

Noclevername
2007-Jul-11, 10:18 PM
A generation ship does not automatically imply high-relativistic speeds, but it does imply a closed and self-sufficient culture. Which tends to result in a certain degree of xenophobia. So, if they contact anyone else, or just think that they might, it seems likely that somebody will want to build some weapons.

Ilya
2007-Jul-12, 12:58 PM
A generation ship does not automatically imply high-relativistic speeds, but it does imply a closed and self-sufficient culture. Which tends to result in a certain degree of xenophobia. So, if they contact anyone else, or just think that they might, it seems likely that somebody will want to build some weapons.

I gave a lot of thought to the idea of generation ships, and the only way I can see them happenening is if they are crewed not by representatives of the prevailing society of their time, but by people who want to get away from that society. Since a generation ship is basically a fast-moving self-sufficient habitat, technology for self-sufficient habitats MUST be perfected before such ship can be even attempted. And once such technology is perfected (more likely, a lot earlier), every kooky cult will want one. Every 22nd Century version of Branch Davidians, Russian Old Believers, or Lesbian Separatists will want to stay as far from "corrupted, sinful Earth" as possible. In fact, such kooky groups ARE the ones who will most likely perfect the habitat technology -- by dying in every unsuccessful design. Eventually one or another isolationist group will take The Big Leap and leave Solar System altogether. Should their descendants succeed in forming a colony, they likely will be very hostile and suspicious of those who remained on Earth. Especially considering that the only knowledge of Earth they will have is very biased one, passed on by the kind of people I just described.

Irishman
2007-Jul-12, 06:16 PM
TrAI, you mirror my thoughts. Our large space vessel will need some means of protection against interstellar dust, microasteoroids, and the bigger stuff. Figure at any velocity, fractional c or not, you are going to have 3 reactions to objects in your path.

1) Run over them. This may work fine at some speeds for things like atomic hydrogen, but even a grain of rice at normal Earth orbital speeds makes big holes in stuff.

2) Go around them. This means fast reaction thrusters/propulsion and the ability to evade. The larger your ship, the more momentum, and the more powerful said engines need to be in order to respond. Also, your reaction time is dependent upon detection distance. A huge asteroid like Ceres can be seen and avoided easily, but what about a dust blob the size of a house? A bus? Dark material may not be detected until you are "right up on it".

3) Run into them. Same as 1), but the object is too large for you to smash, and it smashes you.

Now given the biggest, baddest engines/propulsion we can devise, there's still a limit on vehicle response time.

Given a large imact shield or even magnetic deflector screen, there still will be objects too big to run over that you can't evade.

Sure would be nice to have a way to pulverize said items into sizes more managable. Rockets, lasers, whatever.

eburacum45
2007-Jul-12, 06:56 PM
How likely is it that you should hit a large object?
Let's imagine a generation ship with a radius of 564-odd metres would have a cross-sectional area of one kilometer; a rather large generation-ship to be sure, but comfortable.
On a journey 10 light-years long, this ship would carve out a tube 94,600,000,000,000 cubic kilometers in volume. It would hit every dust grain in that volume.
That is a box a million kilometers by a million kilometers by 96 kilometers.

A big box- in a solar system you would expect to have a lot of dust in that volume. In interstellar space, probably not quite so much.

How much?
This site
http://physics.uoregon.edu/~jimbrau/astr122/Notes/Chapter18.html
says one particle of dust per cubic kilometer. So our ship can expect to hit about 9.46 x 10e13 particles, each one going off like a hand grenade.
You need a big shield.

Some of those 9.46 x 10e13 particles will be larger, some much larger.

Ilya
2007-Jul-12, 08:15 PM
You need a big shield.


AND a much smaller cross-section.

I suspect real starships, manned or unmanned, will be much longer than wide, simply to minimize potential impact area. In fact, contrary to "in vacuum everything can stick out" notion, streamlining may be very useful. Make your ship a very long and very narrow cone, and make the shield not a lump in front, but an even-thickness outer cone. Every dust grain will hit at a very shallow angle, and most of the explosion will disperse alongside the shield surface instead of drilling into it.

Even better idea -- make the ship long and narrow, not necessarily conical, and place shallow-cone shield on a boom in front of it. The above advantages still hold, and if you have the incredibly bad luck of hitting something big, then the shield is destroyed or severely damaged, but the ship is not.

TrAI
2007-Jul-12, 08:55 PM
A generation ship does not automatically imply high-relativistic speeds, but it does imply a closed and self-sufficient culture. Which tends to result in a certain degree of xenophobia. So, if they contact anyone else, or just think that they might, it seems likely that somebody will want to build some weapons.

True enough, generation shipswould probably imply at the most low or near relativistic speeds over large distances, but the point is, the ship would be noticed, classified as artifical and a possible threat long before you could identify any weapons, and I am not really sure there are any feasible ways to positively identify weapon systems before they fire.

And even with a multi-generation ship you need high enough speeds to get to your destination before you run out of resources to repair the thing, it's not like you can count on any way to resupply underways...


TrAI, you mirror my thoughts. Our large space vessel will need some means of protection against interstellar dust, microasteoroids, and the bigger stuff. Figure at any velocity, fractional c or not, you are going to have 3 reactions to objects in your path.

...

Now given the biggest, baddest engines/propulsion we can devise, there's still a limit on vehicle response time.

Given a large imact shield or even magnetic deflector screen, there still will be objects too big to run over that you can't evade.

Sure would be nice to have a way to pulverize said items into sizes more managable. Rockets, lasers, whatever.

Over here in Norway people often go to the mountains in the easter holidays, and every year it has been common for the media to advertise a set of rules and advice for traveling in the mountains, these say things like that you should be prepaired for bad weather even on short treks, and you should save your strength, and dig a shelter to rest in if neccissary and so on...

I expect rules like these would apply, though in an adapted form, also in space. Being prepaired and having ways to protect yourself from the "weather" could be quite useful..

thothicabob
2007-Jul-12, 09:44 PM
hmm.

Ya know, with regards to a G-ship, or any other means of interstellar colonization, the odds of us running into an alien society, let alone one we may need to consider defending ourselves against, are really vanishingly small, and I think the need to arm such a vessel vs. the cost in mass and energy required to move it in relation to everything else would have to be considered, and likely the decision would be against it.

Further, it's very likely that any such vessel would have extensive manufacturing capabilities, and should such a need arise could probably put something together pretty quickly if necessary. Perhaps a couple of high energy lasers or particle weapons could be included, but those would also likely be dual-use as well (for sensors, communications, scientific use, etc.).

For the bigger question - what would be the point of such a vessel, well - at least in my opinion, we MUST find some way to expand our habitat. The earth will not do forever. I expect we'll expand into the solar system, and then try to find some way outward. Exactly how this will be done, I have no idea. Sure, there are many ways it could be done - G-ships, hibernation ships, seed ships...all have been suggested in fiction and in real proposals. I don't think we can imagine now how things will turn out, but I do think that we will do it somehow.

Without getting to mired into ideas about evolution and the meaning of life and intelligence in the universe (and who's to say that more highly evolved intelligences will be biologically based? that'll change the dynamics of the question quite a lot...), I do think that, if there is ANY point to existence, it's one that we provide for ourselves and those who may come after (should they be willing to accept it). In essence, we have the power AND responsibility to define our own destiny and move in directions to realize it. I think that the population of the galaxy (and however far out we can find ways to reach) is a natural goal, but one that we have to consciously select and strive for...and, perhaps, that's also 'why' we're intelligent. (and I also am not suggesting there IS some planned purpose to the emergence of intellect in the world, but - it DOES certainly seem to be a determining fitness factor, and we've used it so far in similar ways).

And I think also, that this should not be looked at as 'imperialistic'. Seriously - who else is going to use the abundant resources we have here in our own solar system if we don't? What about those nice planets out there that haven't developed (advanced) life? I don't think keeping a 'hands off' approach because someone/something else might like to have access to them is very wise. I'll bet that in any given galaxy there's at most one, maybe two, advanced and intelligent life forms extent at the same time, especially at similar levels of technological development; the odds of them coming into contact, let alone conflict, with each other are so remote as to be negligible.

So...go west, young race - and south, east, north, southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest, up, down, left, right, sideways, thisaways, thataways...the Universe really IS our oyster.

Our job is to figure out how to open it.

Noclevername
2007-Jul-13, 01:11 AM
It may not be aliens that the weapons would be designed to defend against, but rather human "claim-jumpers" muscling in on the isolationists' territory, or territory they think of as theirs, anyway.

Picture a cometary sodbuster with a relativistic shotgun shouting "Git th' hell offen mah orbit!" on all radio frequencies...

Extravoice
2007-Jul-15, 01:05 AM
Picture a cometary sodbuster with a relativistic shotgun shouting "Git th' hell offen mah orbit!" on all radio frequencies...

In that case, all you'd need is a Winchester Repeating Rifle, like this guy (http://www.celebhost.net/johnnycrawford/chuck.jpg). ;)

Zaster
2007-Jul-15, 05:11 AM
I almost like to think that by the time the technology to create a G-ship exists, it will no longer be needed. Beings with that level of technology ought to have such extensive control of their own biology as to be effectively immortal. That's assuming they haven't abandoned biology altogether.

But if the G-ship does have a place in our future, I agree with several other posters here that the chances of meeting an alien civilization close enough in capabilities to make combat meaningful is pretty remote. Civilizations might well be separated by millions, even billions of years of technological development.

publiusr
2007-Jul-21, 07:22 PM
My design for a generation ship would be this.

A nickel iron asteroid is broken down (or drilled out) and a fissionless nuke placed at its center, surrounded by meters of heat-shield material, aerogel, etc.

The space rock is then pushed close to the sun to become molten. The explosion's shockwave inflates the metal slug into a one piece sphere, with an inner vitrified layer.

Coat with ice, then a hardening layer, melt the ice. Outer shell number one.
Coat with water, freeze again--outer shell #2.

A giant hollow hailstone that grows by layers--all in one piece. Using liquids

If I rotate the slug and hit it with an impactor as the sphere bulges out--I have a torus. If I hit a very molten slug with a fast cone shaped object--I pull the material into a cone.

One half of a second sphere is cut in two, and fixed to this huge ringshaped space station/gen-ship assembled from the parts above. This is my nozzle.

Gen-ship#1

The other half of the dome is placed atop a 'slice' of an asteroid cut in parts by cable.

You remember cartoon ideas of what asteroid bases look like? Flat on one side, lumpy on the other. Using Kursk cutting cables on solid rocks, you might have this for real, with a dome on 'top' melted into the rock and filled with air.

Gen-ship #2.