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Set in the 22nd century CE, space explorations reached maturity and the farthest human colony is on one of the moon of Neptune. So far the only voice from space that we have heard comes is our own, meaning the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life continues. Every nation still don't trust each other and race to occupy as many territories of space within the solar system as possible, current trend in designing spacecraft is to have a self destruct mechanism built in. Is there any political reason for every spacecraft manufacturers to install such a dangerous protocol or device on their products?

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  • $\begingroup$ Note that it does not make any sense to install a self destruct in a vessel manned by a crew that does not have the rigorous discipline needed to actually activate it. Whatever political reasons come forth, the need to have crews that will use it is essential. This is easier for military craft, harder for civilian. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 28 '15 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ Note all today rockets get a RC self destruction device just for the sake of avoiding the risk of it crashing in populated areas. Once it get out of a pre-determined flying path it ill be reduced to debris $\endgroup$ – jean Oct 28 '15 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ Given the speed that interplanetary spacecraft need in order to get to other planets even on minimum energy trajectories, they are potentially meteors with energies measured in kilo or megatons should they hit a planet or orbital installation. So, yes, remote self destruct mechanisms will be very much a part of spaceflight. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Oct 29 '15 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides: No they aren't to any planet with an atmosphere. Most of a colliding spacecraft will never reach the ground. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Dec 12 '16 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in the atmosphere with an energy of @ 500Kt, and the heat pulse was felt up to 100km away. Previous spacecraft crashes like skylab and Challenger deposited identifiable debris on the ground, so there is a great deal of danger of a reentry into the atmosphere, As well, the atmosphere provides a medium to spread the energy of the explosion, making it more rather than less dangerous. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Dec 12 '16 at 21:09
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Spaceships would be very valuable in the empty expanse of space. They likely wouldn't just be instruments of war, they would also be one of the primary resources that parties would be willing to fight over. By adopting a doctrine of self-destruction you can discourage enemy parties from trying to usurp control of your ships. This could be instrumental in discouraging aggression from piratical frontier groups.

Now perhaps your enemies are content with just blowing your ships up anyway; why bother with a kill switch? Well, space travel is a seriously complex problem and the solutions to that problem would be valuable intellectual property. Having a self-destruct option would prevent your technology from being studied by your enemies.

Finally, you can force the crew's obedience to their faction who holds the self-destruct codes. It would probably be prohibitively expensive and take too long to send a another ship to intercept and reign in deserters.

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  • $\begingroup$ You could build in an automatic proximity alarm for the situation where the ship is breached by a ship which is not "one of ours". That device could be kept secret, for a while, by claiming "the enemy destroyed our ship". $\endgroup$ – Francine DeGrood Taylor Oct 28 '15 at 23:58
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Unless the nature of politics has changed drastically, in the 22nd terrorism is still a problem, and a hijacked interplanetary spaceship would be an extremely effective weapon for such purposes.

A self-destruct mechanism would make sense as a last resort to prevent a 9/11 on a grand scale.

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