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With vessels equipped with systems of propulsion traditional, unable to exceed the speed of the light, one cannot consider space flights with the same crew with the orders, waked up beginning with the end: the human life indeed has a limited duration, incompatible with journeys which extend on hundreds, even thousands of years.

In Star Lady, a short story drawn from the series Instrumentality of Mankind, written by Cordwainer Smith, photonic sailing ship "the Soul" transports (or rather trailer) thirty thousand passengers plunged in hibernation in adiabatic bunches of boxes. Only the pilot is waked up and fully conscious during the voyage, but he underwent a treatment intended to slow down its vital processes.

Connected to a complex system of catheters which maintain it in life, the sailor of stars adjusts the orientation of the veils thanks to servomechanisms ordered by radio. For him, the forty years of the interstellar crossing proceed like one month of life subjective, his attention being at any moment solicited by the instruments but the least reflexion, the least blinking of eyelids occupies in fact an interval of several weeks.

Destination Void, a novel written by Frank Herbert, presents also a spacecraft launched since the terrestrial orbit in direction of the system of Tau Ceti, the journey being envisaged for one duration of a few centuries. In this account, passengers are taken along in hibernation, the good walk of the vessel being ensured by a team of four people, called umbilical crew. Each member is specialized in his field: there are an engineer-pilot, a physician, a biologist and a psychiatrist-chaplain.

As a the difference with the pilot of the solar sailing ship in Space Lady, the umbilical crew in Destination Void did not undergo any medical treatment making it capable to remain alive during hundreds or even tens of years.

Indeed, last the orbit of Pluto, the umbilical crew must also enter in hibernation under the complete monitoring of so called psycho-organic cores, which are brains without bodies integrated into the ship and able to ensure a monitoring of every moment on its systems. Obviously, all is spoiled as from the moment when the last psycho-organic core dies, leaving the umbilical crew delivered to himself...

Romain Dabek
Novels about this theme
2001 : a Space Odyssey
2010 : Odyssey Two
Destination : Void

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Drawer of the famous "bellaminettes" pinups, author of the "Sylfeline", comics, published by Dargaud
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