Assuming that we never achieve FTL travel, generational colony ships may become a necessary method used to traverse great distances. Inherent in the term generational, individuals will live their entire lives on these massive spaceships as will their descendants. In other words, these space ships will be the only home many generations of inhabitants will ever know. This of course means that the ships would have to be designed in the best way possible to ensure the survival of travelers. Inhabitants would need to feel at home. That’s definitely a big challenge, but new techniques being used to design oceangoing vessels today could provide a roadmap to achieve these difficult gains in the years ahead.
Holistic design seems to be a buzzword today, but taking this approach means that people are more likely to enjoy the surroundings that they’re in. The Earth’s growth was not the result of careful human engineering. While gardens might be planned, forests are not. It’s difficult for people to be truly random. However, they’ll need to at least simulate randomness in order to build a craft that was as holistic as the planet that people have already called home for so long.
Design optimization plans are already in place with the intent of increasing safety and cargo space, but habitability seems to be all but forgotten. In the future, this will have to change if people are going to be able to run their own space dwelling civilizations on interstellar missions.
Considering emerging conditions on Earth today, if you were given a chance to spend the rest of your life on one of these generational colonies, would you leave behind our planet forever in the name of human survival/exploration/discovery? What must-have features would the ship have to include if you were to go?
Apostolos Papanikolaou (2010). Holistic ship design optimization Computer-Aided Design, 42 (11), 1028-1044 : 10.1016/j.cad.2009.07.002
Cooper RA (2008). Quality-of-life technology. A human-centered and holistic design. IEEE engineering in medicine and biology magazine : the quarterly magazine of the Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society, 27 (2), 10-1 PMID: 18472458
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