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I can easily set a story in a dystopian environment not subject to ethics, but I would rather try to create a backdrop that is as ethical as possible given the requirements. I feel that writing about possible deviations from an ethical starting point will give more interesting insight into human interactions than just starting off with no ethics. With this in mind, I would like to know how I can set up a generation ship that has a good chance of continuing in its search, whilst taking as ethical an approach as practically possible.


The first generation born on a generation ship will be living among people who were born on Earth and made their own decision to leave Earth forever. However, the new generation did not get to make this choice. Resenting this they may choose to force the ship to turn back, either by mutiny or a few decades later when they form the majority.

Assuming a ship that does not have the power to simply reverse its direction at any arbitrary point (since the speeds achievable by slingshot give such a large ship too much momentum for its own propulsion systems to be able to match), what can be done to ethically prevent the ship being turned around by slingshot at the next available star?

A few ideas come to mind and I'm not sure if they would be more or less ethical, or whether they would make continuing more or less likely.

  • Keeping (very long time delayed) communication channels open to Earth for as long as possible.
  • Imposing a false history so that the first few generations believe there have been hundreds before them, and Earth is not even theoretically reachable.
  • A false history where Earth is uninhabitable and only generation ships survived.

Are false histories effective or more of a risk if they get discovered? Are false histories ethical if in the long term a species' survival depends on spreading out among the stars? To increase the probability of species survival, ships need to be sent out while Earth is still healthy and inhabitable. How can this be justified ethically?


I'm interested in the ethical implications of these particular points, and their effects on the probability of success. I'm also interested in hearing what points I have overlooked that affect ethical considerations and risk of return, including ideas about method of government, education and its potential overlap with indoctrination, and access by the general population to knowledge and sensor readings.


In response to the point raised on meta that ethics can be subjective and vary between cultures, I am looking for answers backed up by studies of ethics that are as near as possible to objective. Not what would one particular cultural history suggest, but what would a present day international effort to send our species to the stars be likely to settle on as ethical requirements.

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    $\begingroup$ Is this more of a plot setting that true worldbuilding? $\endgroup$ – Envite Sep 25 '14 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Envite that's a good question. I see it as setting up the world in which a story will be set (setting up how the colony ship and its rules will be designed). A variety of different stories could then be based in this setting. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 25 '14 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Why would the next generation even want to turn around? They wouldn't be alive to get back to Earth anyways. $\endgroup$ – Telastyn Sep 25 '14 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ It's quite rare for people to chose to migrate to other areas that they consider foreign, even if those areas are more hospitable and arguably 'better' then where they were born. To anyone born on the ship it would be home, and the majority would not be all that tempted to leave even if there was a comparitvely easy way to do so. If you just tell them "we came from earth, we can't really get there" the vast majority will be okay with that. Keep information about earth and their history alive and your good. Only a very tiny number will an issue, but that's true no matter what you do $\endgroup$ – dsollen Mar 12 '15 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ How would a star en route allow you to "slingshot* back? It's not like you could make a u-turn by passing it. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Sep 6 '15 at 7:12

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On the practical side, I think that the best solution for such an issue is the same we apply here on Earth: Education.

Spaniards speak Spanish and like tortilla because that is what they were raised into. Ultraorthodox Jews are that way because that is how they were taught from the cradle. Do you think Japanese people are ultra-polite due to some genetic trait? No, they are because that is how they were educated since birth.

Of course every society has problems with its young adults. But in the same way current societies keep going on due to those young adults growing into adults and changing mind to less subversive and more pragmatic mindsets, that could happen in a generation ship. The young generation is not an issue on itself and there will be no clash with older generation risking the mission. Instead, if you have a fairly normal age pyramid and a good educative system, the conflicting set of individuals will always be a minority against the pragmatic adults, being these the original adults or the hundredth generation.

There is no living USAmerican who voted for their Constitution (or even who was alive when it was approved). Does that make them ignore it as just a decision of their grandparents? No, they are instead proud of it. How? Just by being educated immersively in the thought that it is the supreme truth.

So, if the generation ship crew raise their children with a fairly normal educative system and fairly normal family ties, including into that their own appreciation for the mission (whichever it is), there will be no problems.

...and it is the most ethical approach.

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  • $\begingroup$ education is not done to prevent choices, but to create choices, if education is done to remove choices, what you have effectivelly is brainwashing and this never lasts forever $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ I have to disagree. Spaniards like tortilla because it is one of the best dishes you can find on earth. Only beaten by "huevos rotos". ;-) $\endgroup$ – Diego Sánchez Mar 12 '15 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JorgeAldo it is not about brainwashing, it is about explaining the Why. Once raised in a scheme of values, it is hard to get out of it. $\endgroup$ – Envite Mar 13 '15 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ its brainwashing when instead of having choices you are presented with a single option, a scheme of values can be a kind of brainwashing $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 13 '15 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ I'll not discuss this on Comments. See you in Chat? $\endgroup$ – Envite Mar 13 '15 at 15:15
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That new generation is not going to grow up in a vacuum. They are going to be raised by the first generation and likely work along side that first generation. In fact by the time the first generation have all died off there could be 5 or more generations on the ship. All of these will have worked with and had their expectations and goals shaped by their time with the first generation.

False histories are more problematic because as the first generation ages some are likely to start forgetting the lie or decide to expose the lie. It is just not a good option to try in the first place. Unless you can some how grow a whole generation to start the ship with out any help of the original generation there is no effective way for this to work.

That said there are other stories that are based on this premise. The most successful one I can think of is the 2008 movie WALL-E. The movie was nominally about a robot that was assigned to clean up a wasteland that was left behind on earth, but the subtext was much the same as you propose. When humans find out they are lied to they tend to want to find out the truth.

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First, I think it unlikely a realistic generation ship would have enough propellant to return without actually going to the destination and refuelling. You want to spend as little of the mass and volume of the spaceship on propellant as you can get away with because every bit of propellant you have is something you have to spend propellant to accelerate. So the ship would have propellant to reach destination on the planned trajectory and some added margin of safety for corrections en route. This might not be enough to even stop the ship without using orbital mechanics at the destination to assist. Stopping before reaching destination, turning around and then stopping at the solar system should be quite impossible.

There really is no reason to include the propellant needed for a return. The return option would be to reach the destination as planned, and if found uninhabitable, refuel, and return. There might be several alternate destinations that could be reached, but even this is unlikely as the whole point of generation ships is that the distances between stars are large compared to the speed of the ship. Thus the costs of changing destination after starting should be impractically high.

Another question is: Why would anyone want to return to Earth? Maybe the ship computers would contain lots of cool images and videos of the planet, but none of the inhabitants after the first generation would have any personal experience of any of it. No emotional attachment. The ship would be their one and only HOME with capital letters and its inhabitants would be their people. They'd probably be curious about Earth and maybe even dream about visiting it, but there is no reason it would be particularly important to them.

A generation ship would be fairly stable environment by design. There would be no factor driving people to go somewhere else. Unless the design is flawed, in which case the mission will fail regardless of whether people try to turn the ship back.

This could be fairly simple to reinforce in mission planning if you want to be certain nobody gets stupid ideas. You could build an entire religion of the decision of the first generation to take a huge one-way step into the unknown. It should be fairly simple to make the the commitment to the mission a central part of the cultural identity. After all, they really did make a huge commitment. And as mentioned it really would be hard to turn back or do anything except go right where the ship was sent to go.

And even going to the destination and then turning back would probably take considerable time and essentially require colonizing the star system you were sent to colonize so you can collect the resources needed. At that point there should be some people willing to stay and establish a self-sustaining colony rather than turn back. Just as planned.

And even if the ship then travelled back to earth... So what? Generation ships are built to last, the ship could then be sent to colonize another system. If some of its people decide to emigrate to Earth, they shouldn't be hard to replace. And most would prefer to stay on the home they and their parents grew up on rather than go live among aliens with incomprehensible customs and strange environment. "Frozen water falling from above? Been here, seen this, going back home..."

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    $\begingroup$ I think a generation ship would need to have enough fuel to stop without gravitational assists. You can't use the target start to break in any meaningful way, and relying on planets would make the ship extremely sensitive to correct timing. - A lot of things could go wrong. Other than that this is clearly the correct answer, there is essentially no chance that a generation ship would have the resources necesarry make meaningfull course corrections. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Mar 9 '15 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Taemyr I am making the assumption people will only make such a huge investment, if they have a very good data on the target system from some sort of a huge space telescope array. In that case simply having the propellant for the necessary corrections would allow using the planets. (Because they would have the correct timing and there is presumably little to mess them up in the interstellar space.) Probably should have mentioned that assumption in the answer somewhere, but it seems like bit off-topic. Good comment. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 9 '15 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ I am not convinced very good data is sufficient. Our estimates of solar exclipses on Earth is not reliable past 1000 years into the future. A greater concern is that small perputations would have huge consequences. If their burn is such that their velocity is off by 1mm for every 100 m traveled - which would be rather difficult to detect - They would drift 60% of mean earth-sun distance for every light year travelled. And this discrepancy would have to be detected by on board instrumentation. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Mar 9 '15 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Taemyr Good points. But I think we can assume something like a generation ship would have very good instrumentation. The ship itself is already very large and it would be fairly simple to deploy satellite instrumentation after interstellar space is reached. Or even before the actual ship is launched. It should be possible to make the system as precise as is needed. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 9 '15 at 14:55
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My view of a generation ship is that the mission would most likely be set up to allow no possibility of return before arriving at the destination, and that everyone involved at the start of the mission would be informed that they were making this decision for themselves and their descendants. Children and possibly also pregnant women would not be permitted to embark as the children could claim that they should have been given their own choice. Once on board and under way, reproduction could be allowed to resume as per the mission plan.

So, we have a ship that cannot return short of its destination and a legal agreement binding the original crew and all their descendants to working toward reaching the destination.

As to how a disagreement as to continuing to the destination would be settled, the simple fact that return is not an option would go some way to settling it. Who would want to condemn their descendants to dying in a ship that has run out of resources well short of any destination?

I would anticipate that a generation ship would be a huge thing, with the most advanced technology available, as well as research facilities to improve on that technology before arrival at the destination, giving the crew lots of productive things to do. And, should any children be curious about Earth, it is entirely possible with the technological level necessary to build a generation ship that the ship would contain an extensive library relating to Earth, including VR simulations of Earth.

I would also anticipate that reproduction would be planned to manage population growth, and that children would be educated from birth to look on the ultimate destination as being a better choice for their descendants than returning to an already overcrowded and polluted Earth. The crew of a generation ship would likely have a greater sense of community than occurs in our own society, and would have been educated that to return to Earth would place an undue strain on Earth's resources and would represent a waste of the resources that the people of Earth had expended to make the mission possible. Since overusing or wasting resources on a generation ship would logically be anathematized, this should be a powerful argument.

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  • $\begingroup$ still wont cut, people have the right to revert their own decisions, even more when the decision was made by their parents. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JorgeAldo, I agree that there is no reasonable choice, but if you were on such a ship and had to choose between continuing on to the ultimate destination even though only your descendants would ever see it, or your descendants slowly dying in the depths of interstellar space from lack of resources, what would you choose? This way, everyone who embarks is an adult who knows up front what they are getting into and has chosen for themselves and their descendants that they cannot return. It would be an item of shipboard law: 1. Return to earth is not possible. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 11 '15 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ theres no assumption that theres lack of resources $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ non sequitur, but i have no keyboard $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ @JorgeAldo, actually it's right in the question: "Assuming a ship that does not have the power to simply reverse its direction at any arbitrary point"... $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 11 '15 at 22:34
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I think false histories are both unethical and unlikely to work. Generational ships are going to want to communicate with earth and it would be hard for everyone to stay true to the story. I also don't think that would be necessary.

These people on the ship left earth for a reason. Whether it was personal, or paid, a desire for adventure or a need based on population growth. The same reason would likely hold for any child were born. These children would be raised in an environment where everyone chose to go and would be raised to value the same choice. They would also have no experience of earth and everyone they know would be on the ship. Why would they return?

Finally, I don't think Earth would take kindly on anyone paying back the massive investment on the ship by just coming home. I am sure the ship would be run by a captain and turning back would not be an option. As long as this isn't a prison ship or forced relocation, everyone agreed to get on this ship and I think they and their descendants have to live with it.

Now for your particular points: Keeping (very long time delayed) communication channels open to Earth for as long as possible. I think this would encourage people to carry on. It would remind them why they are going, keep them connected with earth, and remind them they are no alone. I think this would be both ethical and the most likely to keep people going.

Imposing a false history so that the first few generations believe there have been hundreds before them, and Earth is not even theoretically reachable. I think any form of lying would be ethically wrong and hard to carry on. How do you carry on a deception of this scale so that everyone sticks to their story. By the time the original crew all dies and their influence is lost, it probably is impossible to return to earth anyway.

A false history where Earth is uninhabitable and only generation ships survived. Not only does this have the same issue with lying as the second point, but this would cause long term harm. The ship would have no way to communicate with earth if something happened or they discovered an alien race. In the future, if the ship comes across any other ships or even future ships from earth they would be shocked, cut off and betrayed. I will believe in this case the truth is both ethically and practically the right choice.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the discussion of ethics in terms of future consequences. I can say for myself that I am uncomfortable with a false history, but your points make a strong case for convincing someone who does not have that aversion that a true history is still the best thing to do. This is exactly what I need in order to make a world realistic, rather than just compatible with my own personal feelings. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 26 '14 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ your father decided to make a journey to a mountain retreat and decided that everyone must go with him, you are an adolescent child. whats your usual reaction ? now scale it to planetary levels $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 18:49
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This has been handled in a few different ways.

Herbert (Destination: Void) solved the problem by having the crew believe the ship was wired to explode if they decided to turn around and go home.

Robinson (The Dark Beyond the Stars) had control of the ship tied to an immortal captain with a regular generational crew. The captain is essentially "programmed" to continue going forward.

Another concept, that I can't locate, is that some time after the ship is launched a final transmission is sent telling them that war has overcome the Earth, it's no longer habitable and won't be for eons. This would serve as a catalyst to keep going as they would need to reestablish the human race.

However, the easiest path might be in establishing that the ship pilots itself and the original crew does not contain anyone with the skills necessary to reprogram it.

Now, how does Ethics play into the above situations? Under the Beneficence principle, preservation of humanity would very well override any negative sides to forcing a group to continue in such a ship as this is for their - and humanity's - good.

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  • $\begingroup$ who will prevent detection of stray earth transmissions ? $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JorgeAldo: Good question. $\endgroup$ – NotMe Mar 11 '15 at 19:44
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This is not much different of how our society works. In our lives we deal with the results of decisions made before we are born. How we deal with that ?

Democracy.

If the majority of the crew, at any time in history, decides to turn back, they have the right to. Just as we can decide to halt and revert a decision made years back by other people or by ourselves in our own planet.

Anything different than that will make people become "objects", dispossessed things that are less valuable than "the mission". When inanimate things (ideas, or objects) are granted a value bigger than humans, and ideals or inanimate objects becomes the reason of our lives, when things are full of life and humans are devoid of it, we have a situation we call "fetiché" or reification. History becomes the history of space ships, target planets, neo-colonisation, love for the "country" or for the "government", abstract ideals, the history of inanimate things, not the history of people and their desires, their want of fullfillment. Human happiness takes a second place. People believe that what is being asked from them, their lives, their happinnes and their well being, is of no importance. Life becomes dull, dry. Living is not good anymore, because you are now alienated from what you are doing. You cannot reconnect to your work, your studies etc. You ask yourself : "Why i am doing such and such ?" - And find no true answer. So theres a split between the reason for what you are doing and your own aspirations. People raise "beneficence of mankind" as the reason, but, if you are in the space, and the only mankind you know is the ones that are in the same spaceship as you, what is the best for that mankind ? The value of the general good becomes abstracted away, its not the real mankind good's anymore, its the good for an abstract, distant, mankind that you never related to, that you dont know, etc.

The first generation is voluntary to colonize other planets, and by jumping onboard and making sacrifices for the sake of the mission, they do so because they want. Not only that, they identify theirselves with their mission. When you ask why they are doing that, they answer with a smile in their faces and a increased heartbeat : "Because i want to see other planets !" or something of such value. Because they are not alienated from what they are doing. Next generations might embrace or not the mission. They might very well want to end it all and return home. And there is no solution to this. When theres no ethics to show us the path, the only true value is liberty. Being majority, they should be able to supplant the powers that control the ship, if not peacefully, by force. Because liberty is the only true value of life. Liberty is where all other values are rooted. And anything that goes against that is opression, cruelty and lack of mercy.

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  • $\begingroup$ The unfortunate result of this is that is there is no ethical way to force people to accept a journey where they had no voice to decide to take part on. Anything different from accepting the will of the majority will be unethical and be - with more or less complex discourse to hide the truth - the imposition of the will of a group over the will of another. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 8 '15 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, once the ship is launched, Democracy has nothing to do with it. Or, to put it another way, the universe has the most votes. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat May 9 '17 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the underlying problem your argument has is the assertion that democratic decisions are intrinsically ethical. This is not remotely true. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 10 '17 at 0:23
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It is simple.

Let them know that as soon as they can create a drive technology that can turn the ship around and reach the Earth (with the resources available on the ship), they will be happy to drop them off.

The original crew can then use this new magical drive to head back out and get to their destination much faster, even with the side trip.

Oh, and everyone who wants to turn around and isn't working on some kind of super tech drive can spend the next year retaking basic physics. They seem to need it.

Actually, I doubt this situation will come up. For any new generation, the ship is home. It is what they know.

Another reason this isn't likely to happen is: It would be stupid to test the life support systems when there is no way to send help to solve problems and to test the inhabitants of the generation ship to see if they are psychologically suitable for the trip. The solution: have a few generations live in the ship while it is still in solar orbit. Work out all the kinks. Build a generation for whom living on a giant mobile space station is normal. Then leave.

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    $\begingroup$ That's an interesting idea to have the ship in solar orbit for a few generations. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax May 9 '17 at 22:45
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Is the possibility of eventually turning around a key part of the plot here?

... the ship being turned around by slingshot at the next available star?

I don't think there are going to be any 'next available' stars. Space is big! I suppose they could make a small course adjustment now to direct themselves to a different star at some distant point in the future, but you'd likely then be looking at several generations passing before actually returning to earth.

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  • $\begingroup$ This depends on the speed attained by slingshot on departure. If the journey is to various stars until a suitable planet is found, the initial destination will be a nearby star, and the speed may be sufficient to reach it in less than one generation. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Oct 1 '14 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ Since this isn't an answer to the question it might be better as a comment. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Oct 1 '14 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Could you elaborate more on this? So far this seems to be as relevant to the question as the rest of the answers, but it could use some details, such as, in what case would their course not intersect the orbits of other stars and what would qualify as a point of no-return for going back. $\endgroup$ – mechalynx Oct 1 '14 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ So the idea is that they're travelling at some significant fraction of c, and it doesn't actually require generations to reach a different system? They just expect that it will require a lot of different system visits to find a habitable one? $\endgroup$ – Clyde Oct 1 '14 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Even if it takes a few generations before turning around is possible, there may be pressure to turn around. I'm looking for answers that discuss how this could be discouraged ethically. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Oct 1 '14 at 18:22
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One solution I don't think I've seen anyone else bring up is to not include the location of Earth in the ship's data. If there is nothing on board that would help locate Earth, then there's no target to redirect to. Don't even have to lie, just make it part of generation 1's agreement to not bring aboard anything that would help locate Earth.

You might also need an odd route so that a path can't be traced back simply, and the ship would have to avoid saving data about this early maneuvering. Not sure how plausible this sort of maneuver is. I'm also not sure how much info would need to be censored to prevent future researchers from figuring out Earth's location by looking at simple things like old movies and books, and searching for planets that might fit the description. Of course, the farther from Earth you go before someone starts trying to find it, the less likely it will be possible.

You could also send off a beacon of some sort ahead of the ship that would land on the destination planet in advance and which would contain any missing information about Earth, so that after the mission is successful, future generations could locate Earth for whatever purposes.

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    $\begingroup$ this forcefull ignorance and wont solve ethical issues $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ I assumed that the ethical issues involved either lying or some sort of physical coercion. This does neither. There are no lies, just the straightforward restriction of information. As far as coercion, it is no more coercive than allowing the first generation to volunteer themselves and their descendants in the first place. Plus, ethically, it is no different than any irreversible decision made by any generation on Earth. Everything we do limits the options available to the next generation, one way or another, and this is really only a slightly extreme example. $\endgroup$ – Bryon Mar 11 '15 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ it is coercion when you do what you dont want $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 12 '15 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ By that definition, life is coercion. They aren't being forced to do one particular thing, they are just in a situation where one particular option is not a realistic possibility. Society is built on this type of coercion. We agree that some things are in the best interest of society even when they aren't in an individual's interest. It's a balance of where to draw the line. I can't walk down my street naked, I can't make an addition to my home without proving it meets Code requirements, and these people can't abandon their mission. The question is how to stop them ethically, not whether to. $\endgroup$ – Bryon Mar 12 '15 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ yes they are, they have the option to retun home, if not why devise a plot to avoid this ? $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 13 '15 at 14:56
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The reason they don't turn around is they can't.

You talk of a slingshot maneuver around a passing star.

1) It's very unlikely there will be any passing stars. Space is vast, it's unlikely there's a star that close to their path. Not only that but the mission planners would deliberately stay away from stars as much as possible--stars mean gas that slows the ship and they mean debris that threatens the ship.

2) If you are traveling at a velocity that allows you to use a star to turn around you're going way too slow to get to your destination in any reasonable interval. If we figure a thousand year voyage to the nearest star we are still looking at about .25%c--well over 400 miles/second. If you want a U-turn at that speed you need a degenerate body.

3) If we are considering a generation born in space we have already flown a lifetime. Suppose you could magically make an immediate U-turn--you're still looking at another lifetime before they get back. Thus such a generation has no hope of getting back to Earth even if they do turn around.

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Propelling the "quitters" backwards with any force at all will propel the remaining colonist forward even faster. Resulting in a less massive vessel that takes less fuel/energy to maintain. Forces used could be a magnetic cannon etc.

How could future generations call it "Home" anyway?

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how ethical this would be unless a substantial amount of resources were also sent back with them, which leaves the onwards headed crew at risk... $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Feb 23 '16 at 13:28
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Simply make the ship traverse a large starless region enroute. By the time they reach a star to slingshot back they're already most of the way there and don't have the resources for a full trip to Earth without reaching their destination anyway.

This way ethics play no part in the problem, it's a purely practical one beyond anyones control

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    $\begingroup$ ethics still plays a role if the navplot was intentionaly changed to meet political interests instead of technical reasons $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ Only if it was decided by committee to rearrange several hundred star systems positions in the galaxy ahead of time, at which point the whole premise falls apart $\endgroup$ – Tom J Nowell Mar 11 '15 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ nope, your proposal can be read as intentionally choosing a navplot that does not allow return instead of a navplot (navigation plot) that is optimal, but would allow to slingshot back to earth. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ That's not what I was trying to convey at all. If the destination lays on the other side of a vast starless expanse then it doesn't matter what ethics are at play, you need to cross it. All you have to do then is make the expanse in your universe bigger until the technology no longer allows a return trip $\endgroup$ – Tom J Nowell Mar 11 '15 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ no keyboard for a long replay $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 11 '15 at 19:20

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