Science Fiction Concepts – Spaceships and why they’re wrong!

As I’ve been looking at concepts recently one thought has occured to me, spacecraft come in all kind of different shapes and sizes and there are different methods of driving them where the engines go and how they work but it kind of seems like one thing seems to stick.

The pilot is always looking forward out of a window.

Why is this? In a universe of galactic proportions trust me no one is going to be guiding a spaceship visually. It seems to me that the spaceship is an evolution of the aeroplane and apart from light aircraft much of the time they’re not being piloted by sight either.

Let me explain this – in the aviation world planes are flown to two rules:

VFR – Visual flight rules or

IFR – Instrument flight rules.

Basically you’re either flying by sight or by instruments. Most commercial or military aircraft are flown by IFR most of the time, but becasue things go wrong sometimes they might need to look out of a window. The same rules can’t apply to spaceflight where the craft isn’t going to be flown like a plane and this is why:

  1. There’s nothing to see in space, eyeballing a target is extremely inaccurate.
  2. Most of the things that affect space travel can’t be seen, so you need to use the instruments.
  3. You’re not going to use a window to train weapons on an approaching Klingon ship becasue you’ll miss.

On top of this as well, it needs considering that even at the mere thousands of miles per hour that space probes fly at a grain of dust can cause huge damage or destroy a spacecraft. Going at this speed or faster will do the same or worse for a manned spacecraft, so image what travelling faster than light will do? Or even an enemy’s energy weapon?


Sure I know they gloss over this or invented shields to protect the crew but some inescapable thoughts comes to mind here:

  1. The crew or pilot don’t use or need a window.
  2. Having an exposed ‘bridge’ or command centre is extremely dangerous.
  3. The command stations needs moving within the spacecraft.
  4. Any equipment or ducting that does anything is never placed on the outer hull.
  5. Spacechips aren’t surrounded by air, there doesn’t need to be wings.
  6. Engines at the back? Why? It’s not flying it can travel in any direction any thrust gives it.

control centre 6 - Copy

Now why do I mention that last point?

Well have a look at many of the spacecraft created for science fiction. Because the model makers want to embellish the design of the spacecraft there are pipes, ducting, equipment and generally a lot of messing about.

2001-a-space-odyssey-wallpaper - Copy

To me this is unnecessary and if this was a real spacecraft also kind of stupid. Let use the example of an enemy’s weapon, you really don’t want to be carrying out a dangerous and lengthy EVA to fix the problem. So – keep it inside behind armour.

The propulsion is also something that gets me, great big boosters pushing the ship forward with thrusters to guide – it’s in space! Be more inventive! How about a propulsion system that is around the craft and able to push it in any vector necessary? It’s not like it’s an airplane – for this reason also spaceships and wings? Cute… but what the hell are they doing? Where’s the air in space that needs them?


When I look deeper into this and this is especially true with the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars it’s what’s inside the spaceship.

Cutaway picture of Enterprise – E from Pinterest

We’ve got huge amount of living space with a tiny powerplant and a little bit of antimatter at the bottom of it. Hmmm… I’m no physicist but I’m betting that travelling between the stars will use a humongous amount of fuel, so much so that it would take up about 80% of the space inside it. But hey, it’s science fiction eh?



There is one thing with this though – the spaceships that I think are probably real in my mind are a little boring. They don’t need aerodynamics, they don’t need a window to pilot with the control centre is deep inside the craft and 80% of it is a fuel tank. It’s all a bit monolithic. The spaceships we see in science fiction may not hold up to engineering or scientific excellence but they do get you excited and that of course is what it’s all about.


Planet Simon



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45 thoughts on “Science Fiction Concepts – Spaceships and why they’re wrong!

  1. Old post, but I’m going to comment anyway for brainstorming purposes. I think I’ll riff on this idea in a post of my own and link back to your post if that’s okay!

    Your comment about 80% of a ship being fuel tanks makes me wonder about fuel sources. Particularly the evolution of renewable energies as we progress into space travel. Surely any system that requires refueling will be doomed to fail. Maybe we will develop the ability to store vast amounts of solar energy for long periods of time as we pass close enough to stars? Without gravity and air to fight against, how much fuel does it actually require to move a ship through the void?

    Interesting stuff… And also why I’m never brave enough to write hard SF, haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi ya, it’s not too old but it’s kind of always there in my thinking. I know it’s kind of make believe but when you consider the energy it will take to drive anything to speeds faster than light then a lot of fuel will be needed.

      Sure I would be happy for you to link to it.

      I’m not sure you have to think too much of the detail or think about making it hard scifi but a consideration of the engineering challenges gives one a guide to how technology, even in the future will be limited.


    1. Thanks Sam, I think it’s a nice idea to work for NASA.
      As for the window, I know it would have to go in… But of course I’m making the point that it creates problems 😀


  2. All good observations. Perhaps ‘real’ spaceships would be less boring if they restored some of the real science.

    Gravity? It doesn’t pull down, it pulls to the center, up and down, and sideways. So the Enterprise would pull objects to itself and would have trouble leaving space dock—iron meteors and lost wrenches would accelerate toward it, too.

    Inertia? Turning a car 90° at 60mph is exciting, but a spacecraft traveling many hundreds (at least) of mph, no problem.

    Weapons? Modern fighter jets engage sensors and missile tracking far beyond visual range—space craft have to be a stone’s throw away, just like biplanes in WWI.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Huh, I hadn’t thought about any of this. I suppose it just made sense in my head that they would be like aeroplanes. But you’re right, space is a completely different place, and so it would make sense for spaceships to be completely different things. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes! Quite awhile ago! Just the craziness of life over the last year, and I stopped many things, including blogging. But it feels good to be back sharing and reading from others!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These are fascinating thoughts Simon, and apt things to point out in various sci-fi films and shows. I remember in star trek the first two or three anyways, which my little brothers both watched religiously, and I watched with them, they often communicated with an alien spaceship captains from other races ‘on screen.’ In the same way, as this would have been done by some type of video feed, if they needed to see outside of the ship (as a window doesn’t make sense)k wouldn’t they use video surveillence of some kind, but more advanced then ours. It would better permit them to see around them when needed, and could be hidden better in the ship’s building. Interesting post 🙂 Hope you are well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mandi- yes there are so many slips up with this approach and if / when we find alien races this will be realised when we try and communicate with them.
      But that list can go on.
      I’m good thank you, how are you doing? Still smiling?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Simon. Your right there’s too many things to consider for this. I’m doing well. At a writers conference this weekend. My friend drove to our neighboring city, and were at at hotel. She’s at her first session, I start at 5:00 with her. We chose some together & some apart. My genre right now is paranormal romance while hers is fantasy. There’s overlap there forsure, and other courses are just practical! I have to sessions with editors to improve my novel & a pitch I’ve yet to put together. It’s 5 minutes. I want to do well, but truly, my manuscript isn’t in the same condition as my first 10 chapters, I have lots to work on. This festival/conference will help more I think.
        I hope you are good too. How’s summer? Did u get to vacation? How is Britain apart from the European Union in your perspective? Do u notice much difference?
        Take care 😊🙏


      2. It sounds like you’re going to be really busy. I hope you get out of it what you’re seeking.
        I’m doing ok but no holiday. I’ll be working through summer I hope.
        Interesting question about Britain and the EU. I’m not sure what you mean about the difference between us.
        Your take care too 😀😘

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Haha. Thanks Simon. I’ll see how it goes I guess. My pitch went very well today 🙂 I’m glad you feel that way about Brexit. All the best too. Enjoy the rest of the summer; nicer weather if nothing else. 🙏🎈💙

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It’s good to know your pitch went well – do you think much will come from it?
        Brexit is just this huge disappointing waste of time and money, it’s going to make the UK worse off in my mind and it’s going to make us more isolated and inward looking. Which we aren’t as a people.
        You enjoy the rest of your summer too 🙂 xo

        Liked by 1 person

      5. If I can get a draft finished that’s decent and free of as many errors as possible, yes I think something Could come from it. If not I can aim to have a great draft finished by the conference time next year, and repitch to her with the finished manuscript and Query ready to email her. If I finish before, that works too.
        She gave me a card and a note to put in the top line that it was from the conference.
        I was just interested to hear your take living there, I got the same idea from Bany articles I read from the Atlantic, BBC, New York Times, and some British papers/magazines. As the US has become quite isolationist, I didn’t think it was good that Britain did it too. And I do feel for regular people who have little say and get the short straw.
        I will enjoy what’s left of summer. Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

      6. It sounds like you’re doing great things with your work. Keep it up, I know you can succeed.
        That’s very much the way the UK is going and it’s not a great idea. Still… What can I do?


  6. I wish I could spend the day with you, talking about this kind of stuff. Plus, I think you could teach me a thing or too, and I love to learn! I totally get what you’re saying about aerodynamics, however; would it hurt to have a window? Because I would want to see that view if I were in space!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What kind of things would you like to learn?
      I agree a window is nice to see out of but a particle hitting it at thousands of miles per hour would shatter it completely.


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