1. Space travel is hard.
  2. Interstellar travel takes a long time.
  3. Chances for a successful trip and colony becoming self-sustaining are not considered super high.

Therefore, each colony will be seeded by 2 or more colony ships.

The Setting

Colony ship 1 successfully completes its voyage and despite extreme hardship and difficulties succeeds in establishing a self-sustaining colony and its infrastructure.

Decades later, colony ship $n$ arrives.

The Conflict

The crew and colonists of the first ship (rightfully) feel that they did the most difficult and risky part of the colonization. They risked extinction and might feel that they deserve more rights or benefits within that colony's society.

When colony ship $n$ arrives, I'm sure the original colonists won't want to share all of the benefits of their labor equally.

The Question

Does this also encourage the development of a caste system (or even outright slavery) of the newcomers?

Bonus points:

  1. Would their be any difference in attitude towards colony ship $n$'s crew vs. colonists?
  • $\begingroup$ I'm kind of tempted to say that your question is too broad ... Are the colonists all of the same cultural background? For example, with the current global situation being what it is, imagine a seed ship filled with Muslim travelers arriving at a colony founded by Russian settlers. Furthermore, would they all speak the same language, or would their cultures be so incompatible that one group never bothered to learn English back on Earth, and as such, the two groups will never really mingle? How much time will have passed, exactly? A few decades as in 30 years, or 150? $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 21, 2016 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ My original thought was that the ships were from the same culture - just separated in arrival time. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    Jan 21, 2016 at 20:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ even if the ships are from the same culture (America, let's say), their passengers may belong to different interest groups. For example one of them may have been launched by NASA, the other by the massively powerful Church of Scientology, and each group might have its own agenda. Maybe each ship belongs to a different corporation, with mercenaries hired to ensure that their interests are protected once the destination is reached. Just some possibilities. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 21, 2016 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ I assume you're asking for scenarios where the second ship arrives unexpectedly? Because, if the second ship arrives on a schedule, the reaction would be different. $\endgroup$
    – user2051
    Jan 22, 2016 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest you watching something like the series Terra Nova which seems rather close to what you are describing (Colonists go back in time, instead of far away with, more coming afterwards. There are different interest groups and factions sending people back.) $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2016 at 5:51

5 Answers 5


How the newcomers will be greeted depends on a number of variables.

State of the Colony

Is the colony living hand-to-mouth, or are they living in the lap of luxury?

If only a few decades have passed then chances are that the colony is still not too well off. The arrival of a colony ship stocked full of seeds, food rations, new equipment, spare parts, etc. would be seen as a massive boon.

In this case the space-travelers would probably be greeted with open arms.

If, however, they have a really good infrastructure/economy set up, but limited resources (such as not too much inhabitable land), and a few thousand new settles show up then that wouldn't really "work" for the colonists.

Colonist Culture, Political Ideology

How far removed from the original colonists are the people living on the planet? If they are in fact the same people who climbed aboard a colony vessel on Earth then they will share a deep bond with the people now arriving: they will have endured the same dangers of crossing interstellar space, and the same hope of starting new lives on a different planet.

In this case the two groups will be able to relate to on another. Furthermore, if the history of such groups meeting is to share resources freely then things will most likely go relatively smoothly.

However, imagine if the history of such arrivals is for the stronger group to simply enslave the weaker one. For example for the colonists to either seize the ship and use the new-comers as slave labor, or for the colonists, arriving with superior technology, to supplant the colony government and impose their own rules (imagine a new religion developing on Earth and sending out zealots to forcibly convert existing colonies).

Another scenario is that once arrived on the planet the colonists fall into anarchy, and the arriving ship finds an unstable political situation, with various groups claiming to be "the good guys", while they all secretly want to rob the travelers of their gear and enslave them.

The possibilities and their implications are too many to list.

Tech Level

If the colonists are several generations removed from the original settlers then the tech of the new-comers will probably be far more advanced than anything that could be found on the colony.

The new-comers could at that point offer their technology in trade, or simply use their might to crush the locals into submission.

Alternatively, maybe the original colonists counted some brilliant scientists among them, who developed tech which no one on Earth had ever even imagined. For example maybe the colonists form a culture of genetically modifying themselves in order to adapt to their planet, rather than terraforming it.

Maybe they find alien artifacts which mutates them, enslaves them, or allows them access to a hoard of tech of unparalleled power, but which they wish to keep absolutely secret because of its destructive potential. Again, there are countless scenarios.

When the seed ship arrives will they be absolutely shocked by the lifestyle that the colonists have embraced? Will they find a group of infected, alien-artifact-enslaved monsters like in Dead Space (the video-game)?

This question is too freakin' broad!!!

"Songs of Distant Earth" by Arthur C. Clarke

I read a novel some years ago that dealt with a similar scenario.

--- Spoilers Ahead! ---

A colony had been established on a gorgeous planet some centuries before. Being very far from Earth, they did not communicate with their home-world.

In the mean-time, a cataclysmic event causes a massive extinction event on Earth. In a last desperate bid to ensure the survival of mankind "seed ships" are launched into the void of space, hoping that the colonization of as many worlds as possible will ensure the future survival of mankind.

One such ship - which had been on its way to another world - finds itself heavily damaged by a meteor impact, and has to stop and replenish supplies on this world, which they weren't even certain still hosted a surviving colony.

They arrive with technology far more advanced than what the colonists have available. They run into language barriers, and more importantly, there are diseases which one group is impervious to, but have severe effects to the others.

Emotions run high. Many of the crew don't want to continue their perilous journey now that they know this colony is habitable, while others see it as their mission to go further and settle yet another world in order to ensure that mankind is as "spread out" in the universe as possible.

At the same time the natives are feeling exploited because they have to allow access to these outsiders to all sorts of resources that they could have extracted and used themselves.

In the mean time political leaders on both sides share the knowledge that if they really wanted to, the space-travelers have the weapons and gear to take anything they wish.

The space travelers end up deciding that continuing their journey is for the best, however your situation ends in the exact opposite way.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the book was "Songs of Distant Earth." $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    Jan 21, 2016 at 20:06

Based on our own history, a lot will depend on where the nth ship comes from.

The settlement of North America has lots of examples to mine. Everyone had to undergo incredible hardships to arrive (sailing across the ocean in the 1500's was much like space travel today), but there was limited cooperation amongst the various groups that arrived in the New World.

Spanish colonists routinely fought amongst one another to gain power and influence, especially in seizing productive land from the natives. In the Spanish social system, becoming an aristocrat with titles and privileges was valued far above anything else, so we have numerous stories of Conquistadors leaving the Spanish Main to Central and South America with an arrest warrant outstanding from the governor of one of the islands. The hope was ence established with enough land and gold, they could go over the governor's head and appeal directly to the King of Spain. (Alternatively, they could now bribe the Governor and make their problems go away...).

Of course this only goes so far. Spaniards universally loathed the Protestants, so worked hard to eject English and French adventurers and would be colonists wherever they could.

English settlers came in two rather distinct waves, with the first major arrivals coming to establish religious colonies free from the corrupting influences of Rome and the Church of England. A second wave had a much broader base of speculators, landless people looking to better themselves and Protestant Dissenters. This group really established the foundations of the United States (Samuel Huntington's book "Who are We?" goes into this in detail). Other waves of British settlers who came later had different political and cultural backgrounds, so could settle in America, or in Canada, which has a different political culture than the United States.

The French were antagonistic towards the British and Spanish, and were also wildly ambitious, settling along the St Lawrence valley, moving into the Great Lakes region and then down the Mississippi river to modern day New Orleans. However, they ultimately lacked the manpower to fully develop their holdings, much less defend them, and were eventually ejected from much of North America.

For our purposes, the more similar the starships original culture, the easier it will be to integrate with the already established settlers. However, even small differences could lead to differentiation and even antagonism (i.e. Canada vs The United States).

If the founding culture is rent with internal instability, there is a possibility the culture in the colony star will be unstable and divided. If this is the case, the newly arrived starship could intervene on the side of one party and unbalance the power structure for their benefit.

IF the newly arrived starships have departed a long time after the initial colonization effort, there may come a point where the newcomers are so advanced they may simply impose their own will on the system, regardless of what the others think. This may be overt or subtle, depending on the newcomers (they may not even want to impose their system, but the attractions of their technology and culture might be driving the initial colonists to "convert").

So there is lots of room for various scenarios to play out, and mixing and matching different scenarios might be fun (a high tech, but divided and warlike culture arrives in a new starship, but the established colonists realize what is happening and start playing the newcomers off against each other...)

  • $\begingroup$ There was a rule among the european kingdom saying that they were "brothers as far as the eye could see" meaning that once at sea, over the Atlantic and beyond, there was no brotherly love at all and it was more or less free for all. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    Jan 22, 2016 at 9:22

Planets are large and can't be filled by the first ship colonists in the time before the last ship in the group arrives. Every colony ship would by necessity under your scenario be equipped to start its own independent colony from scratch. Survival on a new world is a fragile thing and redundancy of the settlements would be a goal.

So the first ship to arrive would map the planet and pick the site they prefer and send back the data to other ships and Earth using laser comm. Then the second ship arrives they'd settle their favorite spot of the ones distant enough from the first settlement to offer real redundancy, but close enough for support in case of emergency and to enable trade of any specialized resources. Same pattern repeated with other ships.

Each settlement would be independent, but necessary cooperation would be mandated by charter. Trade and immigration between settlements would be possible but limited. Meaning you can't sell critical resource just because you can get more elsewhere or immigrate if you have critical skills just because life is easier on the older colony.

So there would be no class distinction between ships since they would be separate settlements and societies for several generations. Older colonies would have a head start and probably better location. But neither of these factors is likely to be significant. Planets are too big to run out of "almost as good" spots and the time differences between arrivals are unlikely to be significant on the time scales needed to permanently colonize the planet to the point where settlements start growing together. You have to remember the population of the colony ships is almost always very small compared to the size of the planet.


To answer your question: no.

Also if the colony is self-sustaining, chances are that it is still relatively small (you talk about decades, which imply a couple of generations, if not just one) and so probably it will welcome the new ship since they probably still need some new tech or material, that the new ship must have.

But also thinking that the colony is hostile, the new ship can simply settle down on the opposite side of the planet and begin a new colony here and probably they can pass centuries before the colonies meet again.

What can happen, eventually, is that the new ship's crew (which had better technology) become dominant on the old colony which probably it is a bit regressed technologically.


I'd say it all depends on the culture and ideology of the two groups.

If the second group comes from the same nation or a friendly nation, and they have compatible social, political, and religious ideas, then I'd think they'd be welcomed. If they had incompatible culture and ideas, like the first group are Israeli Jewish libertarians and the second group are Iranian Muslim socialists, there's likely going to be conflict.

Of course groups that were in conflict back on Earth might not extend the conflict to a new planet. If, say, both groups were fleeing oppressive governments, the fact that those governments hated each other might have little to do with the colonists views of each other. They might see each other as fellow freedom-loving refugees.

Conversely, differences that seemed trivial back on Earth might be seen as important on the new planet. Or there might be new conflicts, like if the leaders of the two groups have a personal conflict.

If there's no fundamental reason for conflict: It seems likely that a colony ship would carry at most thousands of people, not hundreds of millions or billions. So odds are that they are occupying a very small amount of land and using a tiny percentage of the planet's resources. There's little reason for conflict over living space, etc. The newcomers presumably are bringing at least some tools and supplies which would surely be welcome. At the very least they are bringing new skills: with a small population, it's likely that some skills are unrepresented or poorly represented.

If they don't get along but don't hate each other enough to fight to the death, they have a whole planet. The new group could easily settle some place far enough away that they wouldn't even see each other without going to some effort.

(Well, one could imagine a planet that is all barren desert except for one small area, or all ocean except for one island, etc, so that living space really is limited.)

Consider the colonization of the Americas. When a Spanish colony encountered an English colony, there tended to be violence. But when new English colonists arrived at an existing English colony, they were welcomed.


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