Continuing our popular series on significant episodes from human history, noted historian Sima Kalhana discusses generation ships.
“Before the development of faster-than-light travel, colonising distant star systems was a profoundly difficult proposition. For the people of the 21st Century, the answer was the generation ship. These vast interstellar arks, equipped with everything needed to sustain human life, were crewed by multiple successive generations – pioneers who were born, lived and died aboard a starship.”
“The first generation ship was launched in 2097, and in the centuries that followed, many more set off into the vastness of space. Most of these ambitious expeditions were funded by large corporations, and the penalties for interfering with them were severe, given the enormous cost of mobilising them.”
“At the time of writing, there are believed to be somewhere in the region of 70,000 generation ships coursing through the galaxy. The approximate location of most of these ships has been calculated, but not all are accounted for. Many of the corporations that funded the original generation ships have now been dissolved or assimilated by other organisations, so it is difficult to determine exactly who is responsible for some of these vessels.”
“It has been theorised that some of the original generation ships may soon reach their destinations, but since not all of those destinations are known, it is entirely possible that they could have been colonised while the generation ships were in transit. We can only hope the powers-that-be have a contingency strategy for such a scenario.”