For most sci-fi movies/tv series ship bridge/main control room is exposed (external part of ship). Examples:

  • Star Wars Star Destroyers
  • Stargate Dedalus/Destiny/Atlantis(top of main highest tower)
  • Star Trek Enterprise
  • Prometheus USCSS Prometheus
  • ...

Why such crucial place is exposed so even small enemy ship can destroy all control equipment/kill officers? Is not better to hide bridge like in Battlestar Galactica deep inside central part of ship with thick hull and observe everything using sensors?

I know that for beautiful views and drama it has to be done like this so even very weak opponent could take down "Goliath" but I wonder if there are any other advantages of locating command center in external part of ships.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/108800/… $\endgroup$
    – Ghanima
    Dec 17, 2015 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ The only other technical reason I see is energy shield technology. No shield no ship. Hull can withstand a few magnitudes less than fully loaded shield so when it fails there is no point for structural hardening when one attack can take you down. $\endgroup$
    – light
    Dec 17, 2015 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ The Enterprise doesn't really belong, as it doesn't have a surface mount bridge, at least by TNG. It's just a big screen that can show views from multiple cameras and levels of magnification, as well as video communication. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Dec 18, 2015 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ I think what you're talking about here is pretty much only applicable to poor western starship design. If you look at what the Japanese have done in Gundam, the bridge can often "drop down" to hide itself into the core of the ship when there is a battle, instead of being stuck at the top, if it isn't already non-protruding. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Dec 18, 2015 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 The TNG Enterprise bridge is at the top of the saucer section. The dome ceiling is right up against the outer hull. $\endgroup$
    – Brian
    Dec 22, 2015 at 19:01

11 Answers 11



Maybe it's just a thing to show off or inspire fear. "Our ship is so powerful/awesome, we put one of our most important rooms directly near the outside of our ship." This could also be a simple tradition; people put the windows on their bridges simply because it's always been done that way.


Maybe the vulnerability of some of these ships highlight their civilian or nonaggressive roles they are meant to play. Warships ought to be as secure as possible; civilian or nonmilitary craft may want this weakness to keep their commanders humble. It can also highlight the vulnerability of the craft, making it an obvious non-military target.

Terrible Defensive Capabilities

Perhaps this ship, as mentioned by the poster in the comments, relies on some other form of defense. If that defense is circumvented or defeated, it could be that no amount of other armor would help. If it doesn't matter where your command is, may as well give them a view!

Stealth Detection

Maybe the sensors can be fooled by some technology, but this technology cannot hide from human vision. For instance, the SSV Normandy from Mass Effect can hide from sensors, but not from visual scans. You'd want the decision making people to be able to detect stealthy ships, and this window may be the simplest way to do it.

Really Strong Glass / Claustrophobia

Maybe the glass is just as strong as the material around it? If so, you can counteract potential claustrophobia by putting in a window without sacrificing structural integrity. Chris Hadfield, a real astronaut, talks about this concern here. Alternatively, simply have a window somewhere may help with Claustrophobia in general, and it just happens to be on the bridge.

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    $\begingroup$ I have to disagree with your Stealth Detection theory. Not only is it far easier to "stealth away" visual light than a heat signature, but space warships also would be engaging battles at great distances. So, good luck spotting a pitch black dot on a pitch black background that is hundred of thousand km away and in addition is overshined by any celestial body in the same line of sight. $\endgroup$
    – Bounce
    Jan 12, 2016 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ A camera is a sensor and it reacts on visible light. How is a technology that hides from this kind of sensor but not from the human eye supposed to work? And how does looking out of the window of a bridge on “top” of the ships help spotting hidden ships when just placing a ship “below” yours perfectly hides it from your view? Besides that, when you can see the enemy’s ship with your human eye, you’re most probably already dead but failed to notice… $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Jan 13, 2016 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Holger I never said it was a good idea or that is can't be circumvented by proper sensors. Cameras absorb different EM waves, and it may be that visible waves are considered "boring" enough that they don't bother looking in that part of the spectrum; infrared may carry more information and therefore be more important. One should note that this was about windows on ships in general, not just the enterprise who stuck their command module on top. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Jan 13, 2016 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Bounce It should be noted that the particular reference involved boarding the enemy ship without teleportation. Obviously being able to enter a stealth mode to get close is critical to such a tactic. I never said that this stealth detection would be used in every instance, but that it can happen. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Jan 13, 2016 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ Really strong glass doesn't work all that well. The question is why not put it in the deepest part of the ship. Even if the viewscreen is as hard as steel, why put only one layer of protection when you can put it deeper in the ship and get multiple layers of protection? $\endgroup$
    – Shane
    Jan 13, 2016 at 20:36

So, right off, it's always nice to be able to see where you're going. For many vessels, this means you have to put the command center in the front, and usually on the top, so your driver has clear line-of-sight on where they're going. And since the driver is usually the one in charge, everyone else who's important is also going to end up there.

And for the most part, this isn't a problem. For non-military vessels, you shouldn't be worried about anyone blowing up your bridge, so you can really put it wherever you want to (which might explain the Prometheus and to a certain extent the Enterprise). But like you said, it's the warships you're worried about.

Now, I will say there's no real reason to expose your bridge in a giant spaceship. Human sight will do absolutely nothing for you in the vastness of space; it's likely the bridge crew won't really have much to do at all in a battle, leaving the fighting up to computers that have the ability to crunch the astronomical amount of numbers required to actually hit a target that's thousands of kilometers away.

But this raises a good point: no one should be able to hit the bridge anyway. Space is huge, and many sci-fi warships are also mind-bogglingly large. If you have an enemy ship making a beeline for an impromptu meeting with Death on your command deck, then you should have plenty of time to see this and respond accordingly. The same guns you use to shoot down missiles should be designed to stop anyone bridge-bound from hitting their target. Even if these countermeasures fail to stop a few missiles or lasers or other sci-fi projectiles, the chances of those projectiles being able to lock onto and hit the bridge are probably low enough to not consider.

Now, this flies in the face of many sci-fi cliches, such as super-close-range dogfighting and horrendously bad aim when trying to stop the good guys. But really, why would the Super Star Destroyer let any ships get close enough to ram it? Especially when that ship is passing directly over literally all of their guns.

So you get to choose: either it shouldn't be easy to take out the bridge but it is, or bridges should have more protection but don't. Either way, I don't think it's going to end up making sense, but there's so many other problems with space battles as depicted in sci-fi that this is really just a minor issue.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, Good answer, but I can't think of any military combat vessel, in which the driver is in charge (that's the commander/captain normally and the gunner/first officer if the commander/captain is not able to command). $\endgroup$
    – Bounce
    Jan 12, 2016 at 10:14

There are only two advantages in having a non-core bridge:

  1. External visibility in the event of systems failures rendering cameras and/or monitors inoperable.


  1. Reduced expense: there is no need to have cameras and monitors when the crew can just look out a window.

A surface-mounted bridge is really justifiable only for craft capable of atmospheric landing, and is almost completely unjustifiable for any but the smallest combatant craft.

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    $\begingroup$ What good is it too look out the window when targets are tens of thousands of kilometers away? $\endgroup$
    – user243
    Dec 18, 2015 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ @JonofAllTrades, hardly any at all, hence my point that it's really only justifiable for atmospheric-landing-capable craft, or anything so small that any significant damage might effectively destroy the craft. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 20, 2015 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding #2, I'd imagine that the cost of cameras is negligible to a space-faring race. $\endgroup$
    – Prinsig
    Dec 31, 2015 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ Besides the distance, having a front window saves you one camera out of the one hundred you need for all directions in a three-dimensional space, as you can’t look through your own ship “below” you when your bridge is on “top” of the ship. $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Jan 13, 2016 at 11:52

Regarding the Enterprise from Star Trek, it has been suggested (not sure from what source or with what authority, although I would imagine in some designer sketch or obscure tech doc you might find support) that the bridge is actually a module that can be replaced for an upgrade. It would make sense that, of any part of the ship that might require frequent upgrade, the bridge would be it. The bridge module change from the original U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek (1966) to the refit enterprise that appeared in Star Trek: TMP is detailed in this fan-written article.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, Andrew, welcome to Worldbuilding! As it stands, this might be better as a comment, given that it addresses what is really only a side detail. I understand, though, that users with less than 50 rep cannot comment. If you think this would be better as a comment, you can flag for a moderator to convert it. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Dec 18, 2015 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ Sensible engineering design would allow the same thing for an internal bridge too. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Dec 22, 2015 at 23:22

It seems rather clear that having an exposed bridge, with only a layer of glass between it and the depths of space, is a vulnerability. Even if the glass is as strong as steel, it's still exposing the command center to the enemy's view and opening the possibility of command capability being taken out with one shot. For water-based ships, this could be an accepted trade-off to allow for visual sighting even if sensors are failing, but in space this is useless; your starship should have been reduced to so much space junk by the time the enemy gets close enough for the human eye to see them.

From a combat perspective, therefore, an exposed bridge is worse than useless. But what about the non-combat perspective? Those starships are presumably crewed by living beings. Humans can become claustrophobic in tight quarters (and a starship will not have much in the way of open space), which will become all the worse as time goes on without any relief; imagine a submarine crew that had to remain submerged for weeks on end (ignoring the problems of air and food and water) and what such confinement could potentially do to their mental health. You really don't want to have your crewmen suffering from nightmares, paranoia, reduced efficiency and concentration, and so on when you're about to enter hostile space.

Having windows on your starships would help to avert the possibility of mental breakdowns and generally low morale due to claustrophobia at a relatively low monetary cost, and the bridge is naturally where some crew members will spend a significant fraction of their waking hours. Leaving the primary bridge exposed might be a necessary price for the preservation of the crew's mental health. There is presumably an auxiliary bridge buried at a sensible depth within the ship for emergencies (like the few occasions of actual combat), but there might not always be time to get to it if combat begins abruptly (an ambush, a diplomatic occasion gone wrong, etc.). If starships are fragile enough, it might not even matter very much that the bridge is exposed when one clean hit destroys the average vessel.

As a bonus, you can always advertise the panoramic views as a selling point to lure in new recruits for your suicide miss- sorry, I meant to say your heroic battles! Everybody loves that awe-inspiring view of the cosmos, and never mind the hideous aliens hiding out there waiting to blow your ship to pieces or the endless tedium and strict discipline of daily shipboard life!

  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, many people forget how little of any combat vehicle's total operational time is spent in combat. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Jul 12, 2017 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Submarine crews do spend weeks submerged. Ballistic missile submarines typically have around 90 day patrols, during which time they don't surface. The British submarine Warspite spent 111 days underwater in the South Atlantic from 25 November 1982 to 15 March 1983. HMS Triumph spent 14 weeks underwater traveling between the UK and Australia in 1993. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2017 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Okay, I thought they surfaced much more often than that. Still, submarine crews are comparatively few in number, since submarines simply aren't all that numerous; compared to the billions of people in the world, they are a trivial proportion. My point was to illustrate how the great majority of humans would have problems; proper training can acclimatize some people, yes, but that probably can't be done on the scale of a full space-going navy (even ignoring the fact that there will inevitably be civilians on many if not all ships that lack such training). $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Nov 5, 2017 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ The people who couldn't adapt wouldn't serve. $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2017 at 3:42

This is an older but not too old topic that I thought I would fill in anything that may have been overlooked. I'm thinking practicality of naval vessel design as we expand into space. (It should be noted any civilization with the technology and energy to easily navigate space would not have the same motivations for war that we have today).

Once you can technologically live in space, things like territory, resources, etc. are no longer an issue. The Sun alone provides enough energy to have a huge fusion swarm with quadrillions of people living more comfortably than even the richest of people today can live. I can assume this because here, we are already assuming vast space armadas are able to be built, which would require the same technological levels. So almost anything you would fight over is something that would be far less worth the hassle and threat to swarms of living habitats surrounding the Sun - remember if something were destroyed in space such as a ship, then all that debris becomes unintentional weapons fired in random directions, something the neighborhood is not going to be very appreciative of happening when the fight is over something trivial.

Again, once in space, any kind of resource you could want is much easier to obtain, unless it's a very abstract desire. A single small asteroid or comet is far more valuable than all of Earth's resources because it's much more abundant because it's concentrated which also makes it much easier to get. There would be little gravity well to escape as well. And there's plenty of these objects that it would take a ridiculously long time to run out of them.

But say everything around a star was consumed. If you could do that, than you'd have the technology to do star lifting (gathering resources directly from your star). While to us that's a hard thing to do but technologically possible even today, a civilization we are describing would have no problems doing it. Google star lifting if you want to learn more.

So when discussing such a topic, you already have to make assumptions which you will base your next predictions and reasoning (logic) off. In this case, a space navy capability already assumes a lot about technologies humanity will have gained or mastered in the future.

And there will not be a logical reason to conduct warfare since everything wars are fought over today are generally logical and cold with a trumped up reason (i.e. "I want your gold so I'll tell my people that your people are some sort of threat to my people's existence". Or something like that. The logic is really about getting at some resource). Of course, we would hope at that stage in civilization, we will have become a more secular society and one that has a very sound grasp of the human mind so we will have generally solved many issues that cause abnormal and hurtful behavior such as depression, suicide, homicide, etc., even in cases where it's purely biological since again we should not have any problems providing for people in terms of very high living standards.

We will also assume FTL is either impossible or not yet achievable for some unknown reason. Even without FTL technology and with today's technology, humanity could spread across the entire galaxy in only a couple dozen million years. Which isn't very long at all for cosmic timescales. We could even practically spread out to other galaxies if there became a compelling reason to do so. That would take more time to do, but even if speaking in terms of billions of years, that's still small over cosmic timelines.

With FTL in the picture it just makes any reason to go to war all the more irrational and unlikely (bug again this is where things become more unpredictable). What biological relics will we retain that served an evolutionary purpose at one point in time but would only serve as an illogical motivation in the future. It's worth noting also that human species will start to be more meaningless of a term as any population will evolve (through technology or just biology) as time passes and different environments are settled. So there are a lot of things that could happen which even using my reasoning for having windows will no longer make sense.

Okay, with that out of the way, the reason for windows or a bridge that stands out boils down to easy rationale: Psychology plus practicality.

In the context of modern warfare, even today in naval warfare, windows are not necessary. They have no military value even if your "sensors" (whatever they may be) go out. Ship-to-ship combat has not been fought face-to-face by capital ships for over a century. And in most modern warfare, even a destroyer has been made into the equivalent of a battleship since offensive weaponry simply outpaced armor decades ago. And ever since the ability to launch planes to attach ships was a reality, the effective "gun" range of an aircraft carrier is as far as a plane can fly. Where any gun has maybe 60 miles in extreme context. Say 18" battleship guns with rocket assisted projectiles (which in modern field artillery only gets maximum ranges of about 20-30 km depending on sizes).

I should mention I was a fire officer for a battalion. So me and my 5-man crew served as the brains of any indirect fire support requests. So besides my degrees in math MS and physics BS, I have practical experience in training and applications. So two things emerge from that. The practicality of having large vessels tends to decrease with time, as they simply become large targets, and appear stationary to weapons and vehicles that move at velocities faster than sound.

While I cannot say with certainty what a space navy would look like, I would say it probably wouldn't look very recognizable to any comparable water based navy except for submarines. The barring factor being what size is a practical war vessel. It's simply too difficult to foresee what technologies will lead naval ship sides to evolve into. Small ships are more maneuverable and by any foreseeable technology will be the largest factor in survival, especially when talking about defending against object in space where velocities alone can turn bullets into weapons with the energies of nuclear weaponry (simply from kinetic energy though).

So this is the practical part of the problem. If your ships are not particularly large to begin with, or the size has no bearing on how protected you are should you actually be hit with a futuristic weapon, then it doesn't matter where your bridge is. In fact, the concept of a bridge may become antiquated. And everything will be spread out as much as possible so the ship remains as functional as possible if any one section of it is hit (assuming that being hit is even survivable, which would make large unmaneuvarable ships unlikely as it's a larger investment and risk without any payoff).

Something I can't account for is whether countermeasures in the future to shoot down projectiles being fired at you or shielding against energy-based weapons makes sense to have on larger or smaller craft. There are some conceivable energy weapons which no amount of shielding would protect you from and would radiate the crew of the vessel to death but leave the ship intact. It's worth looking at why a sci-fi novel or movie is trying to do. They very often try to be symbolic and relatable to us. So things are written even knowing the plot is flawed scientifically.

Give an alien invasion of Earth for instance. It would not be a contest if they decided they wanted to kill us. They would send down meteors, viruses, nerve gas, etc and we would die off quickly and helplessly to the point of extinction if they wished it. But that would not make for a good story. So the author often needs to take great liberties in giving humanity a way to win. Such as aliens traveling between stars but not having antivirus software like in Independence Day. Since aliens are meant to usually represent a deep fear of the dark, unknown monsters seared into our brain through evolution, not a true scientifically accurate description of how a war with a hyper advanced space civilization would play out. We haven't even put 1000 people in space total yet. We realistically would have the same chance to win against them as a crippled Bambi would have against a healthy Godzilla.

Next comes psychological reasons, which would be more likely to occur. But I'm basing it off of today's psychology which could drastically change. Future humanity will likely augment brainpower in some fashion. Even if some people object to it there will always be those willing to do it. Those people will likely be the ones to survive more in the future. Between that and more people becoming less afraid of such changes as time goes on, we are unlikely to fathom what future psychology will be like. I will also point out that the reasons apply for any intelligence that I gave in the first paragraph. Whether silicone or carbon based brains should not matter.

But sticking with what we absolutely know, a window serves a vital purpose. Purely psychological ones. It's why people are heavily screened for signs of mental illness before being able to serve on a submarine. We generally don't do well in closed spaces where we also can't see the Sun ever. So windows serve simply as a way for people to stay connected to the outside world psychologically. Just being able to see or be outside on a ship makes someone feel much more connected to the world. And someone in a submarine may get the same freedom to communicate, but would still feel more isolated and cutoff from society.

Humanity is much more of a social animal than some people realize. But most people seem to perceive this at least on some level. And the aesthetic environment can drastically alter the mental health of the personnel on a ship. It's easy for an engineer to design a ship to be as efficient and indestructible as possible. But engineers have historically never been in step with reality when it comes to warfare. Especially if they know nothing about it and, combined with a lack of understanding human psychology, end up designing terrible weapons that never get off the paper.

A good example of this could be a simple one I once encountered at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. They had designed a superior mortar system - on paper. The only problem is the system was supposed to be portable and contained a baseplate that would have realistically required robotic assistance to carry. Again, engineers are not good at designing things practical for people. They are great at making weapons that are perfect for robotic weaponry, but not for a person who is physically and psychologically under stress enough just being in war.

So you could argue all you want about how unnecessary that raised bridge is (which it is today - even on a ship there's no need for a raised over exposed bridge with windows), but even to the commanders it had a psychological effect on when making decisions. Note: even in navigating ports, visual sight is not technically necessary anymore. The bridge being exposed but over-towering is also psychological. It gives the crew somewhere to look to symbolically to gain courage. Or something to at least instill discipline and remind people there is command and control aboard a ship, so it's not without rules or regulations no matter how big or small.

In large cases, it may also serve to intimidate an enemy (or potential enemy/ally) as a projection of the actual power you control. Again, this takes a lot of liberties, since there's a large difference between a naval ship in water and one in space. I am not overly familiar with space psychology but I do know even with windows on shuttles and the space station that people are rigorously tested for any psychological signs of being incompatible with the challenges of space. Even then, a lot of astronauts still have trouble coping with space. I can only imagine that will become harder to manage the further away from Earth people travel. There will only be a feeling of further isolation as distances in space grow and communication isn't even instantaneous anymore from the FTL issues.

Originally, the crews that landed or orbited the moon could not even communicate with Earth on the far side before satellites were so prevalent. Some did pick up odd radio signals from the direction of Saturn. Nothing to suggest aliens or anything unnatural but when isolated, in deep, dark, and cold space, it doesn't take much to make a crew become more anxious, paranoid, etc. A space armada would likely be spaced out to a point where visual contact with friendly or enemy craft will not occur. Just as is often the case in modern naval warfare. So again, I can only use today's psychology and personal experience in war to go on. I tend to think these issues will become easier to deal with given more time and technology, but I have to speculate based on what I do know. Which is only today's psychology.

On a side note: you should be aware that all things in space give off something called black body radiation. So no matter what tricks you may try to pull off, it's virtually impossible to have a truly stealthy space craft. You'll never get it cold enough to look like the background radiation or even close enough to miss at least a suspicious notice. We have crazily accurate abilities to map the background radiation to a thousandth or even more of a kelvin/Celsius. So getting just your body to blend in with this background would take impractical amounts of effort. The effort would actually most likely only draw more attention to your craft since it would be something very anomalous to any civilization. Much more than a natural phenomenon or spacecraft not trying to hide would appear. Which would only most likely make you more likely to be found and make an opponent more likely to judge you to be hostile or have some nefarious business if you don't want to be seen approaching.

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    $\begingroup$ Holy paragraphs, Batman! Would you mind breaking that up a bit more, because right now it's an unreadable wall of text. In any case, welcome to WB.SE! $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ If you can break it up without losing the meaning in it I would be open to seeing what you have in mind. Future space battles (rather unlikely but you never know the motivation behind other species or an AI that's not properly built). But for all practical reasons a bridge that is a high profile is only letting the enemy know where to shoot. Windows are meaningless since you will never see any other craft in space unless perhaps its as large as a super star destroyer. And command structure would logically be spread throughout the ship so that striking a ship wouldn't leave it leaderless. $\endgroup$
    – Chris S
    Oct 13, 2018 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ I did my best to break this up, and improve some of the grammar and syntax, but I have to be honest, I'm still not entirely sure how much of this is actually relevant to the question. I feel like you could cut large chunks out of this without losing the meaning. Maybe that's just me, though. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 13, 2018 at 12:39

One possibility exists for spacecraft that rely on the laws of physics rather than handwavium gravity control: centrifugal force.

A spacecraft which rotates to provide artificial gravity for the crew might have a "tower" with the bridge sticking out from the main body of the spacecraft. The tower would serve two purposes; to have a relatively high gravity area for the command crew (who might have to either be subjected to variable gravity due to combat manoeuvres or visiting planets), and when the ship is not rotating (for example when moving towards a docking station) it would serve as the "weather bridge" or pilot house for close quarter manoeuvres.

Of course, when action stations are sounded, the bridge crew goes to the CIC (combat information centre) buried in the centre of the ship.


For the most part bridges on combat craft would probably be toward the center of the ship with lots of bulkheads and air tight doors around it.

Where a window makes sense is if there is a chance that the cameras might go out.

The thing is that it almost doesn't matter. When you have a chunk of metal moving at thousands of meters a second it's not going to slow down for much of anything short of capitol ship level armor.
You just want to have a few layers that can be closed between the bridge and vacuum.

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    $\begingroup$ The whole point of the question is that ships aren't arranged like that. $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2020 at 1:25

I'm guessing it is because most people think of space ships like we think of aircraft. You need to see where you are going and you get beautiful views. Basically they are thought of as really large airplanes, or even Navy ships where the Captain commands from a height where he can see the whole ship and enemies.

As you pointed out, when one thinks about it, in a space craft this is really pointless, and any craft that engages in combat, it is suicide. A command center, should be just that, in the center, protected by the ship. Even star trek rarely uses the main viewer as a window, it is always 'zooming' in to get a better look. It would also help protect the bridge from any stray particles that happen to make it through or around an shields and strike the outside of the ship when traveling at high speed. Hate for a pebble to 'decapitate' the ship traveling through space.

On top of that the speed at which things move in space and distances make it mostly pointless to be able to 'see' with the naked eye. Space ships are much more likely to be like submarines, using sensors to navigate.


Why is the human brain located in the head only covered by a thin layer of bone. The spine is critical but not even fully covered. No redundancy either.

One answer is that the brain is in the head because it is closest to four out of five sensory loci there. Sight, hearing, smell, and taste are all located in the head, so there is as little delay from traveling along the nervous system as possible.

Another answer is that it doesn't matter as much as you might think. Let's say that we move the brain from the head to the abdomen. We'd have more surrounding tissue there. But assuming that the senses stay in a smaller head, damage to the head can still leave the person blind, deaf, or without the ability to feed. Obviously inability to feed is fatal, but even loss of sight or hearing was probably often fatal until relatively recently. Someone who can't see to hunt or who can't hear approaching predators is likely to die unless someone else obtains food.

Now ships aren't human, command centers aren't brains, and the exterior is not the head. But many of the same issues arise. Which is more likely for most ships: a focused attack from someone else? Or a sensory failure where the ship's sensors are no longer transmitting data? Note that an external window compensates for the latter. Which is probably why most planes and spaceships that we have now have an external window in the cockpit.

If there is a sensory failure during battle in a ship with the command center buried in the middle of the ship while, then the ship is likely lost. Its enemies can aim at it and move around to the weak spots, but it can't see where its enemies are and fire back. Even outside of battle, this can still matter. Consider a ship traversing an asteroid field. Sensors fail. It can't steer and so ends up hitting an asteroid. If it survives that, it hits another.

Once the people get better at building redundant sensors and start fighting in more battles, that calculation can change. Perhaps they develop ships that can still fight after significant damage.

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    $\begingroup$ A lack of computer sensing and control is death regardless of whether or not the commander has a window. It simply does not matter for functionality in space. Star Wars movies aside, space combat is not in any way like dog-fighting in WW2 aircraft. If you are relying upon human eyes, and human senses, and human judgement, you are just as dead as not having any sensors when dealing with distances measured in thousands of miles and relative speeds of miles per second. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2015 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ and a ship is not a human as you stated. You can equip it with sensors all over and make them redundant, then make the redundancy redundant... I don't see why this should be a problem for a spacefaring race, when we can do this already. $\endgroup$
    – Bounce
    Jan 12, 2016 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ Asteroid fields are quite diffuse. Several space probes have gone through the asteroid belt without hitting anything or actively avoiding asteroids. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2016 at 14:11

I was thinking about another post here how there most likely could be two bridges on a ship especially a large one. A top mounted bridge for observation and non combat duties and then a central part of the vessel further down into the ship that would be used during combat. For example in TNG there is the battle bridge which serves a different purpose, saucer separation, but still it would make sense that if the sole mission of ship at a certain time was combat to have central operations in a more secure area.

Another aspect of bridge location in TNG especially is that they have all kinds of shields. Navigation shields for regular traveling around and then defensive shields for combat or anomalous situations where extra protection is required. Also technology and armor could be at such a level where the top of the ship is just as secure as the interior. To make a loose comparison modern kevlar armor is much more effective at protecting soldiers today than if the same soldiers wore metal armor like in the middle ages.

  • $\begingroup$ Please link to the other answer, you can just paste the url into the answer $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Jul 23, 2016 at 6:31

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