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In my story the protagonist lives in an arcology, but this is not just any arcology.

Over a 100 years ago, a global war fought between those who sided with a massively distributed and rather 'insane' AI, and those opposed to it. As the AI was losing, and the earth being ruined in the process of the war and becoming near unlivable, the AI created many giant (roughly 750km in length, 225km in width) sleeper ships to transport its supporters to new worlds.

At least one1 of these ships was captured, and retrofitted, by those opposed to the AI, to be a space station they could live on (remember that the earth is near ruined). At this stage no one on board is a 'sleeper' in terms of it previously being a sleeper-ship

Fast forward somewhat and humans have now developed a working Alcubierre drive2, and gone off in search of a new world to settle. Things go wrong, and they have to land their previous generation ship-cum-colony ship.

This is all background/history in the setting of the story.

My problem is, that neither the AI nor the retrofitters intended to land the ship, and because it has a working self-sustaining source of food and energy; there's no need for windows.

Why is this a problem? I wanted the aesthetic on the ship to be closer to be a cross of solarpunk and cassette futurism. But for solar punk I need to let light in. Part of the background conflict/contrast are between those who accept the hydroponic synthfood and those who prefer to eat what they've grown in their smuggled-aboard home soil.

I'm struggling to figure out what purpose this would serve if they never intended to need light on board.

1 Maybe there are others, I've not fully decided, but I don't think it matters?

2 The drive is powered by handwavium, and I'm ignoring that the 'best' shape for an Alcubierre driven ship is a pancake-shaped.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe they cut the windows when they awoke? People very much hate living in a closed cylinder and not see outside. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 2, 2021 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ The purpose of a sleeper ship is to eliminate (pedantically: greatly minimize) the need for "a working self sustaining source of food and energy". Thus, the scenario of lots of people living on a sleeper ship makes little sense. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ (...Because all the aesthetic decisions of an insane AI need to be meticulously justified.) $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ Landing a deep-space (i.e. not intended to enter atmosphere) spaceship as an ground arcology makes about as much sense as trying to use a skyscraper as a deep-space spaceship. Between structural failure on touchdown since it was never intended to support it's own weight (750km*225km is more area than the top 5 cities in the world combined) and corrosion problems for an atmosphere and weather it was never intended to encounter, this is just not plausible. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Jedediah that's a great point to be honest! $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 22:55

5 Answers 5

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Landing pods for colonisation of the planet

When arriving to new worlds you want to safely move population to and from the planet to start colonisation. The AI probably thought about this. Part of the ships can detatch, allowing instant solar powered habitats to land on the surface. After landing, (part of) the outer shell will remove itself/be available as resources and reveal the windows, growing terraces and solar panels. The remaining parts in space will become an orbiting habitat with windows from where the ground habitats detatched. If needed these can be shielded by retractable metal. This will both allow sattelite intelligence on arrival (though you can send out micro sattelites for that purpose) and a spread of risk. A single danger, like a disease or parasite, can't wipe out the full colony. It also allows also for spread of the instant habitats, further reducing locational dangers.

Alternatively the whole ship can land and function as a solar habitat.

Solar habitats are most likely to be chosen for their sole reliance on light, in combination with batteries and possibly a form of nuclear reactor to bridge gaps without sunlight. But as the AI seems to have the best interest in mind, windows will likely be chosen when on the surface to help people psychologically. A simple window can do a lot in that regard. So despite it being arcs, the ships are most probably designed to have windows at some point during the colonisation.

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The hole was first. The sunlight second.

The ship was damaged. Maybe it was in battle. Maybe something hit it. Something tore The Rent, opening the ship to space. It was a long time ago.

It was eventually patched, with clear plastic because that is what they had. A side effect of the patch is that the light of the stars came through.

People started hanging out under The Rent. Someone planted a tomato and it grew, and then other plants began showing up - a potato growing out of a helmet, a dandelion in a foil packet. A bowl of grass. A garden began to come together.

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As a ship, and as a station, the structure almost certainly rotated about its axis to provide gravity on the "out" floor.

Now that are landed, in a gravity field. They are resting on what used to be the rear of the ship, so the customary floors now form the outer walls of the ship!

Obviously in the process of altering the interior layout of the ship, they will cut holes in the outer shell to make windows. Might as well make the thing livable in its new orientation, and it does not add to the needed conversion workload at all.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your logic, but I hadn't planned on the ship rotating. I'll have to think about it. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Pureferret they have huge spaceships, but no FTL drive. The tech level seems inappropriate for them to have artificial gravity, making gravity-by-rotation a very sensible option. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jun 2, 2021 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ I'm probably going to gain some downvotes for this but it needs to be said. If you build a cylindrical ship to have artificial gravity you are expecting forces coming outwards and the structure will be designed to support those forces. If you suddenly land the ship on one of the flat sides (we are waving hands like crazy here) then the ship is now supporting forces along the axis of the cylinder. It will break because it wasn't designed to support big forces in that direction, nor to be in the surface of a planet. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2021 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ @4.12.22.4.18.0. Nah. the ship is a SHIP. It would be designed to handle at least some forces in the axial direction, when accelerating anywhere. The fact that it is capable of landing on a planet, means the thrust ability is at least 1g of that planet. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jun 3, 2021 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ The ship is actually a SPACE STATION. It has been designed to handle some force in the axis direction, but it most probably uses ionic thrust, so that's not a lot of acceleration. Also, when you enter an atmosphere, at some point you definitely have to experience a bit (actially, a lot) more than 1g to shed off all the speed of being in orbit. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2021 at 14:12
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The ship had windows before it was a sleeper ship.

The ship could have been built from an existing blueprint, the ai could have determined that it would be more cost effective to fab the extra parts than to resimulate the entire structure with a altered design.

Alternatively, the ship could be built using repurposed space station parts, many of which already had windows. This option also would explain why the ship is well stocked with life support systems.

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  • $\begingroup$ You covered extra, which is good. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 23:01
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It Broke Apart on Landing

A gargantuan ship that was never intended to land is forced the land.

This is going to cause serious problems. Realistically, these are the kinds of problems that don't leave survivors - but if you're handwaving the landing away, implying that there was damage probably improves the believablity.

Preparation and Repairs

You can have the settlers prepare for the landing / crash. They add support structures, crumple zones, and hardened survival zones. This helps handwave the landing.

Then you can have them do repairs - they aren't going to move the big pieces around, but they can connect them with scavenged material.

End Result - A Space Ship with Extra Windows

Glass is pretty easy to make - it's melted silica. And it looks nice. Even if they're in an austere location, making glass in-situ is reasonable.

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