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:
- There’s nothing to see in space, eyeballing a target is extremely inaccurate.
- Most of the things that affect space travel can’t be seen, so you need to use the instruments.
- 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:
- The crew or pilot don’t use or need a window.
- Having an exposed ‘bridge’ or command centre is extremely dangerous.
- The command stations needs moving within the spacecraft.
- Any equipment or ducting that does anything is never placed on the outer hull.
- Spacechips aren’t surrounded by air, there doesn’t need to be wings.
- Engines at the back? Why? It’s not flying it can travel in any direction any thrust gives it.
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.
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.
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.
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