Set in the not so distant future, we find a habitable planet very much like our own. The only downside is that it's around 500 years of travel with our current technological capabilities.

We have to assume a few things in this hypothetical scenario:

  • We have the means to send around 500 humans to the planet.
  • All humans survive the journey (Think cryogenic sleep).
  • Only a single ship can be sent out. All the necessary people and materials should be on this ship. The colony will not be able to be supplied with additional colonists or materials.
  • Communication with home is not possible.

What are the top priorities after landing in order to create a self sustaining colony?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 19:12

16 Answers 16


Firstly, if you don't have the capabilities to construct a closed life support system, then you have no business trying to construct a colony many light years away, with no support and no backup and no actual certainty that the world is safe or habitable ahead of time. Your colony ship either needs to be a habitat suitable for a decent number of people to live in for extended periods of time (decades) or it needs to be convertible into such a thing without the need for large amounts of resources from the target system.

This means that when you arrive, you already have the issues of food, water, air, power and shelter taken care of, because you have brought them with you. If you can't bring them with you, don't go. Just chuck yourself off a bridge instead of engaging in a multi-trillion-dollar, multi-century suicide.

You can supplement your stocks of useful minerals, metals and water when you arrive by sending out robot probes and tugs to harvest useful asteroids or comets, but the initial intent should be that the colony ship is self supporting, even if this means keeping a portion of the colonists in suspension whilst stocks are built up and safe habitation areas are constructed.

what are the top priorities after landing in order to create a self sustaining colony?

The top priority is not landing, strangely enough. Park your colony ship in orbit around the target world, and then start getting your house in order.

Thoroughly survey the surface from orbit. Observe the weather. Send out probes to other nearby places of interest, especially closer to the new sun (because you want as much warning as possible of solar flares, after all).

Fly more probes through the atmosphere. See what sort of stuff in floating around in it, and exactly what its composition is. Land things on the surface. Look around. Sample the local wildlife and vegetation and microorganisms. Fly some of it back up into orbit, where you've been building a secure biohazard lab to study it.

You can, and indeed should spend years testing the planetary environment and its inhabitants (if any) to ensure that you're not all going to go down there, take a breath and immediately drop dead (or worse, wait twenty years and then drop dead). Growing a population of lab animals from suitable strains brought from Earth will be a priority here... if mice and bunnies can't survive down there, that's a bit of a red flag. Pathological organisms or chemicals in the environment will need to be identified, if they exist, and no-one can actually get down to the business of colonising the new world until steps have been taken to treat or provide immunity to these pathogens.

Moving people to the planet below will be a one-way trip, at least to start with, because you can't risk contaminating the colony ship. Quite when things should be declared safe is anyone's guess. When the colonists have healthy grand children is a reasonably conservative estimate. The truly paranoid might say "never", and they'd be welcome to set up a separate habitat in space or on one of the other worlds in the target system and keep themselves and their descendants quarantines.‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 19:12

I think that the number one priority is actually going to be confirming that the planet is, in fact, as habitable as previously anticipated. Previous information on the planet took 500 years to get here; we don't know how fast we were traveling, but I assume it was a relativistic speed (IE a significant percentage of the speed of light). As such, all data determined from afar is based on how the planet was somewhere between 500 and 1000 years ago-- that's a long time! Lots of stuff can change in that time period-- look at what we managed to do to the Earth! Look at major extinction events, such as the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs!

The planet could be experiencing an ice age, increased seismic activity, the advent of new life, an industrial revolution for the life that was native to the planet, flooding as its ice caps melt-- lots of stuff. If the planet is no longer suitable for colonization, it will be important for the colonists to re-evaluate and determine what their next course of action will be. It will also be important for them to observe planetary conditions in order to plan for how they'll proceed once they land. If it's 75 F, sunny, a perfectly breathable atmosphere with tons of fresh water available, first priority will be very different than if it's -17 F during the night and 108F during the day, with the only source of water being heavily salted, for example.

Assuming that all of that goes well, it will be important to follow that up by confirming that the atmosphere really and truly is breathable. If it isn't, the next step is figuring out what sort of chemical reactions that crew will need to run to scrub the air or separate oxygen from it. Earth-like could have a lot of different implications, after all.

Next, as everyone has said, is the food and water supply, with water being the most critical. Humans are designed to run without food for a bit if we can't get it. We might not like it, but we'll last longer without food than without water. Sources of water might include polar ice caps, ground wells, oceans, condensing it out of the air itself, or making it chemically if enough free-floating hydrogen and oxygen (or combustible hydrocarbons and carbon-oxygen chains) can be found.

Shelter is probably alongside water in terms of importance. What is the climate of this world? If it gets exceptionally hot or cold, shelter could mean the difference between power supplies lasting a day and lasting weeks potentially.

Prior to descending to the surface of the planet, I would think that the ship would include some sort of Geo-stationary weather satellite to deploy. This could give colonists an alert whenever there was some sort of inbound danger, such as an impending storm like a hurricane, or perhaps even migration patterns of any sort of dangerous local wildlife. It would also be useful for imaging different sections of the planet in order to determine where to expand to in later months/years as the colony finds the need to grow.

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    $\begingroup$ You made a mistake regarding the "500 to 1000 years ago" It would be double the time of the trip if travelling at speed of light, so minimum 1000 years ago (because it takes 500 years for the light to reach us and 500 years to go there) So more like 1000 years to 2000 years $\endgroup$
    – Tofandel
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Tofandel I think they were right? Sure if they travel speed of light it would mean it had been 500 light-years away, but if they travel 1% speed of light for 500 years it was only 5 light-years away to begin with, which placed our latest data when leaving at 505 years from time arrival. So the range is indeed 500 - 1000 light years. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm didn't think about it this way, that's right indeed $\endgroup$
    – Tofandel
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ I'm gonna be honest, I thought I got it wrong after reading the first comment, then @James convinced me that past me is cleverer than present me. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ I think one of the bare minimum requirements for a ship going that far is having sensors pointed at the destination. You should already know about any changes long before you arrive, but there may be new information that changes things. $\endgroup$
    – user71509
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 4:09

Good answers from a lot of people, but I can see one flaw: The premise that only one ship will be sent.

What civilization will only send one ship on a one-way 500-year journey? Surely in 500 years other ships would also be sent to the same destination. Some of these might well be faster and could therefore arrive before the original vessel even gets there. Your colonists might arrive and find a 300-year old colony already established.

In this scenario, the #1 priority would be to establish contact with the colony, introduce yourselves and catch up on the news & 500 years of history from home.

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    $\begingroup$ Then the question applies to the first ship that reached the destination, wouldn't it? $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed Maybe... but they might have had a couple of hundred years advance in technology to help them as well. $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ Don't know if it's an edit or not, but the question no longer allows for multiple colonizing ships $\endgroup$
    – awsirkis
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ The reason it is only one ship is that it is a dissident group trying to escape a hopelessly corrupt society. If you can’t beat ‘em, leave ‘em. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ Or our planet is facing some sort of doomsday scenario. The ship is an ark. But maybe that changes too much in this scenario $\endgroup$
    – FruityB
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 7:30

I believe the top priorities, in order, will be:

  1. Food and water. Once stored victuals run out, there will have to be local sources for food and water. Food might be adapted from local lifeforms, or the colonists can begin growing crops from seeds, etc., brought from home.
  2. Shelter. Shelter from wind, rain, and cold will be the second priority, once the future food supply is secured. Until then, the colonists can rough it, sleeping in the open under water-tight thermo blankets or in the landers.
  3. Energy. Modern technology needs an energy source. Initially, solar panels or a microfusion reactor brought from home can supply energy for the most urgent needs, but eventually, the ability to grow the energy supply as needed will be essential.
  4. Transport. The means to travel and to transport goods beyond what you can carry walking will be important once mere survival is secured. Vechicles, whether ground, air, or water, can be used for exploration and to bring resources into the colony.
  5. Infrastructure. Eventually, as the colony expands, infrastructure will be needed: Plumbing, electrical wiring, roads, communication, irrigation, etc.
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    $\begingroup$ Reverse #1 and #2. A human being can live for weeks without food, but you can die of cold or heat much faster than that. Actually, finding clean water also comes before worrying about food. Remember the rule of threes $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ Food, water, shelter, +1. It's "Earth like" so it's no different than going camping. The question is how hard core are these people? Can they build a log cabin having showed up with just an axe head? If so, the top priority is making a handle for the axe. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, you can go for a long time without food, but it is critical to quickly analyze whatever appears to be a food source to ensure it isn’t poisonous. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 3:12

The top priority will be fertility. They will need 3-5 children per couple, perhaps more if the planet is dangerous (native life, environment, whatever). With only 500 people, that's not nearly enough to bring along all the specialties required for a modern civilization... Charles Stross has speculated on his blog that that's north of 100,000 distinct, highly-trained fields (even medicine along probably has more than 500).

Since you'd need to train these children and you can't bring along the people to train them (or even Skype back to them on Earth), they will be trained in virtual reality by software (perhaps AI, perhaps not).

You'll still need several generations of high fertility, so figuring out the specifics of why fertility tends to drop among highly-educated people will be important. This is a rather large sociological/economics problem. If fertility dips below replacement level the colony is really dead on arrival.

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    $\begingroup$ " fertility tends to drop among highly-educated people" Is this a thing? I thought smart people just plan better, and that is why they have less children. $\endgroup$
    – Dr_Bunsen
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Dr_Bunsen Exactly. If there's an absolute need for children, higher-educated people are just as 'fertile' as others. It's just that in modern society there isn't such a need. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Send only young female colonists which doubles your birth rate right there. You'd also need a sperm/egg bank too (obvs). $\endgroup$
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, fertility tends to drop among highly educated people (and high-status people in general), but I do think that this stat applies to earth-circumstances, not 'we're all alone on a new planet' circumstances. But fertility is a useless priority if water, food and shelter aren't taken care of. Infants are much more vulnerable than adults. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Dr_Bunsen Doesn't much matter what rationalization they put behind it. If the fertility rate is at or below replacement, the colony dies. Pop. 500 is too small for that nonsense. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 15:10

Without communication back it's just simple stranded island scenario.

1: Steady water supply

2: Steady food supply

3: Shelter (Assuming your ships won't be available as long term housing)

4: Elimination/Subjugation of local hostiles. (This can be anything from animals to humanoids)

But seeing it is long term and 500 people isn't extremely much you will have to enforce a form of paring system to go against inbreeding. (Because of those 500 people i assume that at least half are already done with having kids or are unable to by genetic defect or age)

Also this is with the assumption you have a clear chain of command.

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    $\begingroup$ For your point on genetic diversity, how about as an alternative talking a stock of frozen sperm and eggs or even embryos for implantation? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ @WiggotheWookie if it's from a diverse stock it would work. Best would be the addition of breeding pods, don't think many woman would volunteer for such procedures. $\endgroup$
    – A.bakker
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ "i assume that at least half are already done with having kids or are unable to by genetic defect or age" ... that description does not strike me as the first criteria to select colonist, quite the opposite actually. Colonisation is only ever successful if it is sustained by new generations. If you can't have kids, to be accepted on a multi billion project lacking the #1 quality, you'd have to be at least a unique expert at something badly needed for colonisation. $\endgroup$
    – Hoki
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ If you preselect against genetic defects, you don't have to worry about inbreeding all that much. The main problem with inbreeding is that in a sexually reproducing species, genetic defects tend to accumulate - in an asexually reproducing species, they are quickly weeded out, but for something like a human, you can often do fine with one copy of a gene/allele that doesn't work anymore, for example. That's what makes inbreeding dangerous - if you breed with your sister, there's a decent chance the kid will get both the defective copies. But only if you have a defect in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 9:50

The top priority would be determining if life is present. If life is not present or at least not extensive, but the planet is habitable then they can land and set up home. The top priority would be shelter, but I assume they would have some form of basic shelter with them so the next priority would be food and water production.

If the planet is home to life then they will have to be very careful at least initially. An alien biogenesis would probably lead to a very different kind of biochemistry. It might not be based on DNA it might be based on some other molecule and evolved very differently.

The enormity of all the chemicals involved in maintaining life is huge and an alien biochemistry would include many compounds which were toxic in the same way that some randomly synthesised organic chemicals might be toxic. Sealed suits might be required to prevent the inhalation of microscopic alien life producing any number of alien biochemical compounds.


How good are their robots? 500 people can’t sustain a modern technological base.

Without robots you are doomed to a pre-industrial civilization. Therefore your first priority will be to get robot production up and running while keeping most of your population in cryogenic sleep. Once you can manufacture robots, you can manufacture everything else: Greenhouses, habitats, water and gas purification etc. etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Social and legal pressure to get Amish to conform to current society has increased to the point that their bishops decided this one-time use of modern technology is justified to escape. And all those past child-bearing age volunteered to stay here and to fund the voyage. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ @WGroleau The Amish aren't averse to technology, only to technology that makes them connected to the our society rather than their own. And they're quite happy to book tickets on modern transportation when they do move somewhere else. They usually send their livestock via train as I remember reading. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 14:30

Don’t Land

The only ways that only way it is remotely plausible that a colony ship could travel in space for 500 years and still be intact are either:

A) You have Star Trek esque matter replicators on board, on which case you have absolutely no reason to go down to a planet (or to worry about resources once you get there), or

B) You have a colony ship so ludicrously vast that it contains chip manufacture facilities, foundries, colossal power plants, uncountable tons of raw materials, even more uncountable tons of fuel, thousands of robot servitors that maintain it all... there is no conceivable way to land it, and no real reason to. Any planet you find will mostly be a source of raw materials and maybe an agricultural base. Your order of operations will be to build a space elevator, and then build ever-expanding resource extraction facilities in a spiderweb around it.

  • $\begingroup$ Good point, but if we can build space probes which last for decades today, is there any physical limitation why building a ship which lasts for centuries won’t be possible? Especially if you cool it down to a low, constant temperature. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ The difference between decades and centuries is huge, but more importantly, probes are much more limited in scope. No moving parts, no engines, no cryo-chambers... The difference between a hunk of metal meant to fly for fifty years and then die, and a ship meant to transport 500 living humans to another solar system, wake them up, and give them a chance at survival is orders of magnitude of difficulty $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ That’s just a matter of complexity. But is there anything which makes a spacecraft lifetime of centuries much harder than decades? I’m aware that outgassing is an issue, some fuels only last a few days or weeks and radiothermal generators decay. But once you solve those issues, turn off all mechanical devices and cool down your craft to a few degrees above absolute zero, does time really play a role? Especially if you are very far away from stars and other radiation sources. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ If you have plenty of energy (e.g. zero-point drive), you might use a hollowed-out asteroid as your colony ship. That would give you lots of raw material to mine when you get there. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the problem of it never starting back up. Setting aside the fact that no computer is going to wake back up after that long, cooling the entire ship to a few degrees above 0K introduces a whole new set of issues for starting back up, from embrittlement to cold welding. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 17:37

Researchers would first have to send probes to the planet to determine the likelihood of ELE (Extinction Level Event).

You can ship 500 people to a planet, but if they don't predict a massive electrical storm coming along, or fire rain or whatever, the entire population could get wiped.

Others have mentioned food, water, etc.. pathogens would be a major consideration, too.

The colonists would need to either orbit the planet for a long time to sample the air for potential pathogens and run experiments, or to establish a research base on the ground that isolated them from the environment until they could make sure no existing pathogens exist that would wipe the entire colony.

This is the "why are you taking off your helmet even though the atmosphere is breathable, you f'ing idiot!?" factor.

Chances are a bit slim for this to happen though, contrary to popular belief. A planet already has an establish ecosystem full of predators, prey, specialized creatures fitting in niche areas.

Humans showing up wouldn't likely match any pathogen or bacteria or what-not that currently exists....but, since bacteria and viruses reproduce so rapidly, they could suddenly jump species and start wiping out humans. EG: there could be a creature or plant that has a pathogen in it that has reached an equilibrium in the enviromnet. Humans show up as an invasive species, and provide a new host to take advantage of. The humans might have an immune system that can adapt to it quickly, or it could be somethign that wipes them out quickly.

Generally speaking, the bigger concern would be the humans act like an invasive species that messes up the environment a lot if not careful. They might have stow-away pathogens on their ship, or bugs or what-not, and those things might show up and start wiping out the pre-existing biodiversity.

But, getting back on track....

1) is there anything on the planet that can immediately kill us? Be it massive predators, weather events (ion storms, fire rain, etc), pathogens, etc? If it's an Earth-like planet, then chances of radical weather is probably slim, but even Earth has crazy hurricanes, tsunamies and such.. so, stilll

.. from there you go down the survival list...

3 minutes without air 3 days without water 3 weeks without food

2) is the atmosphere enough to support humans (assuming no pathogens to kill us). If not, do we have the resources on-hand, or available on the planet to make oxygen scrubbers or such until humans can adapt?

3) is there a water source to fill the needs of our colonists (b/c humans consume a lot of water, not just drinking, but for hygeine, cleaning things, etc).

4) is there an ample food source? Are crops and animals we're used to able to sustain there, or are there food sources we can use naturally occuring there?

From there...

1) if we're using a technological crutch to sustain ourselves, will we get wiped out if we lose that crutch (extinction level event)? EG: Matt Damon on Mars... if he lost his shelter for oxygen, his food, his water.. he's screwed. If humans require some advanced technology to survive, then some ion storm shows up and blasts it all.. oops

2) do we have the mind-share to sustain ourselves? IE: do we have enough people learning to be farmers, ranchers, builders, etc. to maintain the living conditions? If you're using advanced technology to sustain yourself, and you can't educate the next generation fast enough in genetic modification of foods, gene therapy of humans for medicine, etc, then you're rate of survival starts to decline simply because your means of education is drying up.

3) Are we acting like an invasive species? Humans tend to grow into the area they're given, and terraform it along the way. As humans start to cut down trees to make fields, add industry, etc, they'll just end up with the same situation we have on our planet; where we lower the biodiversity of the natural planet by destroying ecocystems in order to sustain ourselves. Eventually, humans have to act like caretakers of the world, or come to some kind of balance with the ecosystem to ensure it can still sustain them.

4) do they have sufficient waste management? A colony won't do so well if it's not disposing of it's own waste efficiently.. which cuold become a cesspool breeding source for pathogens. They might want to use their own feces to create energy (methane) or fertilizer, but if it's mihandled it could contaminate everything and give everyone a really bad time.

Other factors...

a) humans will adapt over time. Humans are the millions-year culmination of DNA / Biology adapting over time. So, given enough generations, humans might adapt to better handle the environment.

b) with sufficient technology, the colonists could hyper-evolve, essentially rewriting their genetics quicker to better cope with the new world (think of the movie Pandorum, where the colonists were injected with an accelerator to help their genetics evolve quicker to adapt to the planet during their own generation instead of waiting for many generations to do so... which went to utter crap when the ship screwed up and the colonists mutated into cannibal monsters).

c) are they producing enough replaement population to grow and make-up for unforseen attrition? EG: if there's a plague that comes out of no where and wipes the colony, is there enough population to bounce back? Are they breeding enough?

With enough technology, you can "Sci Fi" deus ex machina your way around a lot of problems.

1) the colonists may have accelerated genetics, so they can quickly adapt to the planet, including all pathogens and such

2) they might be genetically modified to not have to "eat" normally or use the bathroom. IE: they are genetically optimized to take in nutrients, maximize usage, and recycle all byproducts into somethign useful. This would require a very high-tech society. It elminates a lot of burden of

2) the colonists have the ability to grow food, even protein, wihch takes the burden off feeding themselves

3) the colonists have "easily replaceable tech".. so if an energy storm wipes out stuff, they either can easily replicate the stuff they need or they have advanced brains and can quickly create advanced tech out of sticks and stones. (Rick & Morty that crap together).

etc, etc, etc

So, food, water, air... but also check for pathogens, statistically analyze planet to make sure not over-populating it, etc.


In my post number 8 in https://historum.com/threads/generation-or-sleeper-ships-which-would-be-the-better-more-realistic-option-for-space-travel.181701/1 I state that with slower than light speed travel the main method of settlement in our solar system would be via many artificial space habitats, and the main method of interstellar colonization would be by fleets of generation ships that would build more space habitats out of asteroid and comet materials in the solar systems they reached.

So in my view the normal method of colonizing a star system would be by using asteroid and comet materials to build new space habitats in it. And it would be comparatively rare to find a solar system with a habitable planet to also be colonized. Systems with planets that could be terraformed over centuries or millennia to be habitable might be more common than systems with already habitable planets, but such systems would have to be settled and already have large populations in artificial space habitats in order to begin vast projects like terraforming planets.

So an expedition to a habitable exoplanet that is 500 years travel distant, at whatever travel speed, would be somewhat similar to the proposed fleet of generations ships, each ship having thousands of people in it, that I described.

Nobody would send a colonizing expedition with only fifty people in it and the expectation that there wouldn't be any later expeditions to that world for centuries. Fifty persons are not enough for sufficient genetic diversity to maintain a healthy population. Hundreds or thousands of persons would be necessary for starting a colony with enough genetic diversity.

So 50 people are not enough to start a colony unless they bring along thousands of frozen embryos and artificial incubators for them.

And fifty people would not be enough to have all the skills or time to perform all the tasks needed f to maintain a civilized community. Not unless many thousands of highly advanced robots also come on the voyage.

Therefore, the colony expedition seems more likely to be some trick to get rid of the colonists than an attempt to create a viable colony. Possibly the colonists are political opponents of the government and also fans of less realistic science fiction stories, and are tricked into making a colonizing expedition that is fore doomed by inadequate preparations and numbers, presented as a more merciful alternative to execution.

That sort of reminds me of the ending of the Star trek episode "Space Seed". I can't help thinking how unrealistically successful that colonizing attempt turned out to be in the sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget the people involved in Space Seed were genetically engineered (/bred) superhumans, and by the time of The Wrath of Khan, the original crew is still mostly alive. Heck, their colonisation even failed. Also, they were on the run - it was explicitly their alternative to imprisonment/execution. So it seems to fit all of your conditions of a horrible colonisation prospect, and yet you call it "unrealistically successful"? :D $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 9:57

According to this question, the first priority would be to sterilize the entire planet. There is basically zero chance that there would be any biocompatibility at all between alien life and Earth life.


The first steps really depend on what challenges the specific planet has in store. Unless something totally unexpected about the environment is discovered upon arriving, the first step would probably be to place and ship in orbit. Wake up Generation 0 from sleep and starting sending landing parties and drones to explore and perform tests on the environment. But keep the bulk of the passengers (Gen 1, Gen 2, etc.) in cryogenic sleep until they are safe and needed, which could perhaps for decades.


Why not start by taking over some plants and basic life forms a la panspermia. See if these actually survive, and thrive on the planet. Is it actually habitable?

This could be done by robots or other autonomous machines, and then the same robots could run general data collection on the planet once they are there.

To take humans over before anything else is probably being overhasty.


#1 Top Priority? Family

I sincerely hope the colonists were informed of just how many babies they are going to need to make...

And babies require a lot of resources, not just because they need somewhere to live, but they will also need training, work, and the encouragement to have big families themselves.

That means your colonists have Zero time for getting curious about that planet. They need infrastructure now, not in 100 years time.

Fortunately, they have just arrived in a solar system with a star, asteriods, planets of all shapes and sizes, and no few moons either. Even better they are not in the gravity well of any planet which means they are already 80% of the way to all of those resources.

Infrastructure shopping list (roughly in order):

  • Lots of Autonomous Droids. (Mining blimps, constructors)
  • Communication, mapping, and monitoring satellites
  • Mining and Refining (water, metals, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and more)
  • Factories and Shipyards
  • Living Space (Lots of it)
  • Civil Society (Schools, Shops, Libraries, Hospitals, Government, Law, and more)
  • Space Elevators (Why not put a ladder in first? They did come to investigate the planets)
  • DHD (Dial Home Device, a.k.a giant communications telescope pointed at Earth. - it might be 500 years out of date but Earth might be sending useful information, might be nice to say hi too. But if communication isn't possible then if the colonists left Earth on less than pleasant terms warning of an invasion would be nice, or answering what happened to Earth to try and not do that too...)

They could try and build a Dyson Array (for power generation) but they should avoid that before establishing a tolerable government and reasonably effective and restrained navy. A Dyson Array is a stellar powered laser after all, care needs to be taken to not use it as a death ray.

Also taking a look at our own human genetic lineage, you will probably need something more inline with 40,000 souls on board your expedition to provide enough diversity. If there isn't any space for more people, perhaps they could instead bring a large genetic library, and perform IVF.

They shouldn't even consider landing on the planet until the population is well into its first million.


The posed question is about after landing on the new planet.

In the given scenario, we're limited by "current technology" and we need to travel by 500 years. Even if the ship's crew is safe, the Earth will have changed, so going back to Earth is worthless.

And it was said that all needed resources are supplied by the ship.

So, the next steps:

  1. Mix up (over power?) with local life forms;
  2. Create hybrids (dress up?) with local life forms, especially the intelligent ones.

We need to mix up with new life forms, if they're "intelligent", or we can dominate them if they're "not intelligent".

The best way to profit from the new environment's resources is some type of mutation (actually something expected after so many years traveling in space, even in cryogenic sleep).

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Marcio, and welcome to Wordbuilding SE! Would you mind clarifying why you would need to do these actions, or add more details to your answer? $\endgroup$
    – Greenie E.
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ The two most voted questions don't provide an answer to the question too. They give a lot of good suggestions (I support they too!), but they didn't provide an answer to the question! $\endgroup$
    – marcio
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 21:14

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