After decades of floating through space, a ship with the remnants of humanity in stasis arrives at a distant planet that looked like it could support terraforming only to discover that it not only has life, but it's sentient and has a World War 2 level of technology. There are several different alien governments that currently have fairly friendly relationships. Our protagonists park in orbit behind a gas giant and think about what to do. They need to somehow set up a human civilization on the planet. They have about 1,000 humans, a power source that won't run out anytime soon and the ability to manufacture just about anything at a small scale of production. How should they go about dealing with the current inhabitants and beginning colonization?

This relatively small ship does not have the resources for an Independence Day style invasion and any straightforward attempt at contact would result in being wiped out.


Some more details about our would-be colonists/invaders. Earth is gone, there will be no backup, and they don't have any other potential systems to go to. The people on the ship are all experts, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that they could send cloaked ships to the surface for reconnaissance, create robots to infiltrate existing society or rework the biosphere. They have time on their side, but are pretty desperate.

As for the aliens, I would expect them to freak out if the situation isn't handled delicately. If humans are captured, they can expect to be kept in an area 51-esque facility and have their technology thoroughly examined. The nations on this planet have a tenuous peace, so there is plenty of potential to muck with their politics.


closed as too broad by Mołot, Pavel Janicek, JDługosz, kingledion, Hohmannfan Dec 18 '16 at 22:12

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ " any straightforward attempt at contact would result in being wiped out." -how do they know this? And what can they do safely? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 18 '16 at 9:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can't kill them? Join them. But we need more details! I'm thinking camouflage, masks/lookalike tech, maybe negotiations (The humans sure have knowledge that post-really-scary-war people would want). $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Dec 18 '16 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ Could the human cripple the aliens communication I'm eyeing the alien satellites? What's preventing the human from harvesting resources off other places in the star system? Can the human enter and leave the planet without being seen afterall they did achieve interstellar travel and is looking for planet to be called home? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Dec 18 '16 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ If you've got the technology for interstellar travel, then use biological war to remove the inhabitants. European did this accidentally and incompetently, better biotechnology can do a better job. Alternatively, WW2 level means they won't have settled their entire planet. Move into their equivalent of Antarctica and call it home. $\endgroup$ – a4android Dec 18 '16 at 11:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why, obviously you go full Reptilian. Infiltrate governments, bribe important people with power offered by your technology (intel on enemy states, population, weapons to let them stay in power, but always products, never know-how) start spreading chemtrails, affecting climate to suit your need, spreading bioengineered plants and wildlife intended to replace original biosphere with one that has human-friendly biochemistry. Secretly set terraforming in motion, banking on fact that it will be too late when they figure it out. You can survive vacuum, you can survive wrecking biosphere, they can't. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Dec 18 '16 at 21:54

So, assuming your humans live in a society that would want to have as little an impact on the alien society as they can, but also doesn't want to die, the fact that the aliens have WWII level tech gives a couple of really good ideas.

Their best bet would be to land, set up a minimal colony to use their manufacturing ability to essentially resupply, and then move back out.

First off, "about 1,000" would be the population of my hometown, a little knot in the wall outside of Dallas nobody has every heard of. On a planet, 1,000 people is tiny. So what we need is an area of the planet where WWII technology can't reach, but a civilization with the ability to travel interstellarly with suspended animation would.

Antarctica would be great, somewhere near the South Pole. Middle of the Amazon or Congo would work too. Much of Canada or Siberia could have a 1,000 human colony and nobody would even notice.

The goal here isn't to colonize this planet, but to resupply and get back into space without contacting the aliens. Once back in space, they could land on a moon, or a farther out but less hospitable planet; something that their technology can handle but the aliens likely wouldn't be able to reach for a hundred years or so. Sure, it won't be as lush as the planet they had hoped to land on, but one doesn't hurl oneself into the dark reaches of space and refuse to be flexible.

Once set up, they don't need much, so they should be able to get some from a tiny colony on the planet. They need to be able to refurbish their life support and suspended animation, refuel, and resupply. Then remove all evidence of their colony (or not) and land on the local equivalent of Mars or Triton or Pluto. They then land, set up an emergency beacon to Home Base, and go back into suspended animation. Set the alarm for 100 years.

Either home base will have sent a rescue squad, or they'll have sent supplies and a new destination, or the alien race will have nuked itself into oblivion leaving the planet ripe for the taking, or they'll have become more open minded and opened the possibility of cooperation.

Without the ability to forcefully colonize the planet, ALA Indy Day, your rag-tag handful of humans really have no other alternatives.

Even if they stayed on the planet as a colony, they could probably get a hundred years or more worth of colonization before they're found. There's still tribes of humans at least 1,000 members strong we still haven't contacted in the least hospitable regions of our own planet.

A final option? Underwater. Set up a small land base to get raw materials to build an underwater habitat, something that can handle the water pressures at the edge of the continental shelf. Deep enough that you're unlikely to be on any underwater navigation maps. However, depending on your colonists' tech, it's likely that space would be easier for them to colonize than underwater... especially as the aliens actually WOULD have submarines, sonar, and submersibles at WWII level tech.


Be open. Cut a deal.

  • Try to break the language barrier from transmissions. As a sign of good faith, broadcast a piece of relatively harmless, somewhat useful technology. The formula for the glue in post-it notes, for example.
  • Ask the aliens to form a world government as a precondition for more substantial talks. Not problem if that world government is crippled by checks and balances, but talking to any one nation would be destabilizing.
  • Offer more technology in exchange for raw materials and a place to live. As the aliens send shuttles with oxygen, water, whatever to orbit, neat little pieces of tech are beamed down.
  • Form joint ventures on the surface to introduce valuable, groundbreaking technology like transistors or superconductors at a slow, measured pace.

Hopefully by the time the databases run dry the pattern of cooperation and mutual trust is well established. Also, humans don't have to run their own mines or lumberyards, they can buy that.


One idea worth considering is to give the aliens something that they want, in return for helping you out. Your biggest resource is your technology - and the aliens are probably at the perfect technological stage to use it. Find an alien nation with ambitions, and agree to share technology in return for a place to live.

  • $\begingroup$ In other words address this as a business deal: advertise your capabilities and make an offer for what they want/need in exchange for what you need $\endgroup$ – Auberon Vacher Dec 18 '16 at 17:37

The entire scenario is hard to handle, as it depends on a lot of details.

First: You cannot colonize a planet that has an existing, alien biosphere. It will kill you. Period. The best you can hope for is that the biosphere is so alien that its simply toxic to humans. Biological engineering may (by a far stretch of imagination with some handwaving) may make it possible to alter the biosphere to make it compatible with humans, or the humans could alter themselves, but this would be a very long term undertaking.

If the biosphere would be compatible from the start, that would mean the WW2 level civilization is mostly likely human (maybe earlier colonists). Still requires handwaving (how did they get there, establish colony and have a fallen back to their current technology level). In that case, infiltration and control of society would be an option.

If you're willing to handwave biological impossibilities or assume your colonists have vastly advanced biotechnology, they can use biological warfare against the existing civilization. No need to fight, just engineer some really nasty diseases and have some patience. A WW2 level society would be about as vulnerable to diseases as we are today (less medical options, but slower spreading because of slower transports and less traffic). Once the civilization has fallen they can take over the planet, it could take as little as a few years to bring down a civilization, if its is constantly tormented them with incurable diseases (introducing new diseases faster than they can find a cure for the previous).

You will also need to find reasons why your colonists can travel interstellar distances, but still need a planet to settle. With that technology level one would expect them to be able to establish a colony in space, on an asteroid or a small moon.

It will also require handwaving explaining how 1000 people can expect to establish a technologically advanced civilization to begin with. Take 1000 highly intelligent and trained people, give them all our knowledge at their disposal. They still wouldn't be able to maintain that technological level, for example a microchip has a dependency chain that requires more than 1000 people to make it. The same is true for cars, airplanes etc.

  • $\begingroup$ First: You cannot colonize a planet that has an existing, alien biosphere. It will kill you. Period Nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, and water are some of the most common substances out there, and silicate / iron rocks are pretty much the norm. I'm too sure about the "period" part - a good number of planets that support life shouldn't be all that deadly, though some might be. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 18 '16 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ is mostly likely human millions if not billions of species have developed in the exact same conditions as us, and only one species on Earth is human. I think most likely is incorrect. Otherwise valid points and a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 18 '16 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra There exist a good number of organisms on our earth which have metabolic byproducts that are deadly to humans. There are thousands of bacteria which can cause deadly infections - in fact thats whats killed a lot of native americans, australians... etc. Now given those alien counterparts will have a shot at your immune system. It will be worse than being infected with HIV, Ebola and the Plague - all at the same time, and your immune system will not even recognize them as intruders. If you don't believe me, make a few trips to the trophics without immunization and drink local water. $\endgroup$ – Durandal Dec 20 '16 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ The majority of species of anything on Earth won't do anything to harm us. Yes, some alien species may be harmful, but there is no reason to expect instant death at every turn $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 20 '16 at 13:27

Damn it... that is going to be too easy... (easier then empty planet)

One has superior technology. One has a tiny group of colonist with that technology can easily live as well on Antarctic or Novaya Zemlya equivalent.

You may even settle there unnoticed. Build factories.

Listen to local radio and TV transmission. Get local political situation.

Make the first contact. Offer a peace, cooperation and trade. No aggressive moves. You are too civilized for that. Give some cheap toys as sample and offer to sell more in reasonable price.

Instead of conquest you just buy everything what you need. You buy natural resources and offer highly manufactured goods. There is a planetary market for that. In long run aliens adopt big part of your culture and work for your multinationals. Resistance is futile.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.