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A large space colony transport ship (100 colonists) set off for Europa to populate a colony recently built by drones (near future, the 2070s). The six-year flight was going well until unidentified space debris caused a massive rupture in the ship's hull, splitting the vessel in two.

Climate Control systems exist independently on each deck, so the environment can still support human life, and the solar panels that power them are still operational. Repairs to the spaceship are not feasible, and each half of the crew has to wait at least 6 years for a rescue vessel to reach them. The two parties cannot communicate with each other, cannot share resources, etc.

The group in the front half of the ship follows the Space Travel: Best Practices guide like a bible, and the group in the back finds a more traditional way to manage its people.

They had to bring food and water to Europa, so both have food and water although the front group has significantly more.

What are other systems that are required to operate in a space vessel to allow humans to live for 6 years in space?

What would be the first thing to break/ need repairs?

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  • $\begingroup$ If they can’t communicate, how do they known how long a rescue mission is going to take? If they can communicate with Earth, they can communicate with each other via Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Sep 30 '20 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ The best-case scenario/ minimum the amount of time for it to happen is 6 years, so that's what they are going with when talking about it. Privately though most people are expecting it to be longer. But for the question, I'm just concerned about the first 6 $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Sep 30 '20 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ The solar power cells won't be enough that far away from the suns. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Sep 30 '20 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ They cannot simply 'wait six years for a rescue vessel to reach them'. A spaceship is not a car which stops if it has a serious problem. A spaceship will (roughly) accelerate a certain amount of time, then fly on inertia, then decelerate. If it becomes inoperational, it will continue on the straight line/orbital trajectory it was following at that moment at the speed it had at that moment (plus potential acceleration through gravity) - as modified by the impact of the debris. Depending on when they were hit, they could be much further out than Europa. $\endgroup$ Sep 30 '20 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ How about the accident merely causes a break inside the ship, so that the people in each half cannot go to the other half (vacuum, radioactivity, tribble infestation)? $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Sep 30 '20 at 15:23
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  • Slow leaks.
    Getting a spaceship "100% airtight" is close to impossible, anyway, so they just settled for "reasonably airtight" and carried extra air. After the disaster the speed of atmosphere loss will go up. Can they find most of the little leaks?
  • Power.
    Solar cells won't work very well that far out. Did they have a nuclear reactor or RTG? Which side has enough power?
  • Air and Water Recycling.
    It makes sense to put fans and heaters onto each deck, but it might not make sense to distribute waste water treatment and $CO_2$ removal / $O_2$ generation that way.
  • Communications.
    They probably need a rescue. How to call for it? Do both parts have a "big dish" and the telescope to aim it?

But there might be a neat solution to your problem. Imagine the ship had spin gravity like they did in the movie 2001, but not as a full ring. Instead there were two balanced pods as in 2010.

For safety reasons, give each of those spin pods redundant power and life support, supposedly enough to get the whole crew home in case of disaster. Then assume that the center section was wrecked and both spin pods broke free.

  • They were designed as a self-contained habitat, but not with the full capabilities of the undamaged ship.
  • There are just a few hatches to seal in the spin arms.
  • One or both pods might have shortages of some supplies, because expediency won over safety. Say one has the main sickbay, the other just a decent first-aid kit. Or one has the main computer, the other a smaller backup.
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