Here on the Space Station 'A long way from anywhere V' (not to be confused with any other space stations) a wide variety of species pass through on their way to the Krasnikov tube terminal. Even the starship 'Exciting Undertaking' stops here from time to time. Due to the number of strikes on the Nebula Line they often find themselves onboard for long periods of time and don't want to wear rebreathers constantly while still wanting to enjoy the company of other species.

We have all sorts here, aquatic creatures, high gravity sulphur breathers, low gravity plant men, humans and even some kind of sentient slime mold. Our Generic Transliterator deals with language issues and all staff receive extensive lectures on the dangers of 'improving interspecies relations', but there are still a few issues to work out.

The biggest question is how can so many species meet, trade, socialise and queue to shout at the Complaints division of the Krasnikov Tube Corporation without suffocating, being crushed to death or accidentally combusting upon contact with the Magma Men of Plodial 4?

To be clear: What I'm looking for here is the mechanism by which so many species with different environmental needs can live on the station without needing to wear exoskeletons/environment suits constantly.

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    $\begingroup$ A transliterator would leave it in the same language, in a script you could read but still not able to understand. That's a bit useless. Could I suggest a small rodent that fitted behind your ear and lived off brainwaves while translating for you. Some sort of Babel Mouse. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 19 '16 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix There was a guy stopped by once with a magic Red Phone Box that seemed to rewrite bits of the universe so everything made sense. I sometimes wonder when he's got to... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 19 '16 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ So is the question is basically how can I have a tuna, a pike, a zebra and a reindeer all live in the same aquarium without needing any sort of individual life-support? I think it might be very tricky... About the only answer I can think of that works is "The Matrix" - ie they're not actually in the same room at all, but plugged into their own life-support pods and then socialising virtually. $\endgroup$ – Matt Bowyer Dec 19 '16 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ @MattBowyer Yep. It's a tricky problem. If you develop your 'matrix' point a little then it could make a perfectly viable answer. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 19 '16 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs, I think I met him once, though for some reason he seemed to be travelling in a coin operated toilet at the time. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 19 '16 at 12:22

Many differences are quite easy to overcome. Moderate- and high-gravity-worlders, for instance, can live in a mid-to-low-gravity environment without much trouble, at least for a little while. Plant-men, humans, and slime-molds can share the same atmosphere. Stationary or slow creatures can use hover-lifts to get around. Even some normally-aquatic creatures may be able to get out-and-about, as long as the air is humid.

For those that require (or merely demand) full immersion in liquid, broiling temperatures, caustic air, or otherwise extreme environments, however, nothing short of a full environment suit will do... most places. Luckily, the motto of Space Station V is, This Place is Nice 'Cause We Built It Twice.

The motto, of course, is untrue. The station was actually built a dozen times, with more on the way; each replica holds the lowest common denominator for the comfortable survival of the maximum number of races. One station is full of water, another hundreds of degrees hotter, and still another filled with caustic air. However, each station is otherwise a perfect duplicate of the original... visually, anyway. The stations beam fully interactive holograms to the others; that way, a magma man can shake hands with a (holographic) water-dweller, and a low-gravity-worlder can carry on a cheerful conversation with a high-gravity-worlder. Ships are automatically routed; where required, transport ships carry passengers to the correct stations.

Shops, too, are duplicated between stations, though for a few shops that is simply not possible. Water-dwellers, for instance, are disgusted by the idea of ice cream, and the asbestos-laden magma-man clothing store has little relevance to humans. In those cases, the shops in other locations are only painted store-fronts; while you can look inside and see a magmom buying a cute asbestos solar-flare-hat for her hot daughter, you're looking "through" an otherwise blank wall. The room inside is used for maintenance or storage. Some stores compromise with alternate or holographic wares; or, on the flip side, high-traffic locations are "double-mapped", allowing increased seating without wasting space seating holograms, yet still allowing a merman to wave to his slime mold buddy.

As an added benefit, computer-generated holograms can fill a variety of roles, from a basic prerecorded shopping hologram to make shops seem busier than they may actually be, to visually replacing high-dollar items, so shops can look full without stocking useless items. Renting a basic information hologram is much cheaper than hiring and training a real person, and cuts down on the minimum-wage retail-worker drama. Blank walls can be filled with holographic panoramas, making the compressed space of a station feel much larger, while ever-changing scenery alleviates the boredom of what is essentially a modern version of those old airports.

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    $\begingroup$ I love this idea. Just reading your answer got me thinking of all the little ways it might become part of daily life, things that can be sprinkled through a story to help ground the reader and build the world - not to mention the larger implications that could become plot details! $\endgroup$ – anaximander Dec 20 '16 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ I think you mean 'Photomateria', not holograms... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 20 '16 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ Red Dwarf style solid light holograms? $\endgroup$ – Sir Adelaide Dec 21 '16 at 5:49

Space travel was a nightmare of constant encounter suits and multiple stations sharing orbits until there was a big collision between two stations in unstable orbits around Life in Exile 5. After that it was just constant encounter suits. Luckily the airtight nature of the suits meant that the fact nobody had washed in 6 months didn't affect other travellers.

Everyone who needed a special atmosphere either had to build their own station or sleep in a space suit for months on end. That was until the first modular starship was built.

The concept of the modular starship was a breakthrough in multi-species transportation. It was a corridor with standard docking points an engine and a bridge. Nothing more.

Each species wishing to travel would provide a habitation module on a standard external design with an evacuating airlock which could attach to the docking point either on the ship or on the space stations. If they wished to transfer to another ship they could just detach from the ship and dock with the station until their next ride arrived.

Encounter suits are still required in communal areas and if you live in an atmosphere hostile to other species it's terribly bad manners to allow your environment to leak into these areas. Though some of the more jury rigged frontier stations it's not unusual to have communal areas either hostile to all due to mixed environments or entirely evacuated to vacuum either intentionally to suppress corrosive atmospheres or just through bad maintenance.

If visiting frontier stations we advise wearing your encounter suit at all times while out of your pod, even if the station is advertised as being suitable to your species.


They use 'The Matrix'.

When it comes to public space travel amongst widely varying species, it's very tricky to keep everyone alive with such differing requirements. So where there's going to be a big mix of requirements, they borrow from the ideas of intermodal freight transport.

At every space port, there is a large stock of life-support containers, of a number of standard sizes to fit all life forms - each able to create a wide variety of environments for the lifeform inside (and perhaps some specialist containers for really odd species). These can then simply be loaded nice and neatly on to the ship for travel. Where the passengers will mostly be of one species, then the ship would be split between normal passenger travel and a 'cargo' hold for the boxes. Because the boxes are intermodal, there's no need to get out until you reach your destination - boxes can be swapped between connecting flights and stored where there is a gap between flights.

These boxes also contain 'The Matrix' (I just came up with that name, don't know why) - a virtual reality system that enables everyone to socialise on board the transports. The communal areas can now of course be as large and luxurious as you like!

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    $\begingroup$ And you can enjoy a juicy stake wherever you are. Ignorance is bliss! $\endgroup$ – Stijn de Witt Dec 20 '16 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ If you extend the matrix to include the "normal" traveling passenger area as a sort of augmented reality, those can seamlessly interact too. But i suspect as soon as the matrix works well enough, "normal" socializing would die out in a few decades :) $\endgroup$ – Durandal Dec 20 '16 at 14:54

Fortunately, the OHSA reforms of 2173 C.E. (Convenient Era) introduced total immunity for spacecraft and space station operators for loss of life or property as a result of energy wall malfunction.

Thanks to these well-though-out reforms, prisoners may be kept in cells locked with energy walls that require constant power to keep them in, hull sections can be replaced with large, breathtaking windows that that only occasionally empty the room, and, more importantly, both common crew and high-profile ambassadorial staff can move around the station in a comfortable bubble filled with their desired atmosphere.

The station's translocators will occasionally replace some of the fluid inside the sealed environment, ensuring that it remains breathable and safe at all times*.

*In the event of that the translocators are preoccupied with sanitary tasks during an outbreak of andromedan cholera, priority will be given to high-profile ambassadorial staff. Other visitors may rest assured that the station computer will serve them in order of priority and they will be able to resume normal breathing Real Soon.

  • $\begingroup$ (**) Guaranteed translocator uptime: 97% (measured over a period of five years). Guarantee may not apply to wearers of red uniforms. $\endgroup$ – Klaws Oct 24 '17 at 15:19

Interaction between "environmentally incompatible" species was a big problem, until the generic atmosphere system was invented. This system consists of nano-robots (I'll call them nano-riders) and generic-gas.

Every creature is coated in nano-riders, that are invisible to the naked eye. The nano-riders basically emulate enviromnental conditions directly on the skin by taking everything they need from the atmosphere.

The atmosphere in turn, consists of the normal atmosphere of the planet, plus clouds of nanorobots that are generating "generic gas" from the molecules of the planet.

Generic gas consists of passive-non-reactive compounds that contain all the molecules that can possibly be needed by the nano-riders, no matter which host they "ride".

Nano riders are keeping their numbers up by self-replication, have limited intelligence to prevent grey goo scenarios and will repel foreign riders (so shaking hands between a magma man and a aquatic beast is not an issue anymore).

They come in a number of variants and one host carries all the variants needed for his enviroment and repel elements and molecules that could harm the host. Their variants include, nano-gravity generators, molecular manipulators, replicators, and heat manipulators.

The fuel that is needed by the machines is also taken from generic gas.

All planets that signed the GAET (generic atmosphere enabeling treaty) have this system installed.

  • $\begingroup$ 'Blort, why are you bright pink?' 'Someone hacked my riders, Fred' 'Oh. well...' $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 20 '16 at 12:15

The Matrix idea is by far the best. However...

Hook up their ship's life support to standard residential blocks

Per Coalition Guideline #87923, section 7, all ships planning to dock with Coalition space stations are recommended to carry standard 273-pin life support interface connections that meet or exceed Guideline Specification #28447. This equipment will allow your ship to connect to an Astralsquadron-standard Reconfigurable Station Environment, and provide the same environmental conditions you enjoy aboard your ship within your station quarters.

Using your own ship to provide the life support in your A.R.S.E. ensures that you can enjoy comfortable living conditions during your time on the station.

All A.R.S.E.s are equipped to move independently around the station, allowing meetings between vastly different species to take place in comfort, simply by pressing their A.R.S.E.s together.

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like someone in the acronym planning department slept through the safety briefing on improving interspecies relations. Tut tut. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 20 '16 at 8:16


The Universe contains a very large number of sapient species. But not all of them come to Space Station 'A long way from anywhere V'.

The Magma Men of Plodial 4 know that they would freeze solid if they tried to visit, so they stay away.

The Methane Breathers of Blubliblub know they would catch fire in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, so they stay away.

The Kiniggits of Galia know they would be poisoned by all the water vapor in the air, so they stay away.

And so on.

What you are left with is just those species that are water-based and oxygen-breathing, thriving at approximately the same temperature. Fortunately that is still a good number of species.

The Methane Breathers of Blubliblub and other places have their own stations where they meet only other methane breathers. The Kiniggits stay on their ships, and the Magma Men really doesn't travel much... Life support is such a hassle at 900 degrees centigrade.

  • $\begingroup$ I have a feeling that this was part of the plot in some book I read, but I can't for the life of me remember which one. $\endgroup$ – Stig Hemmer Dec 20 '16 at 9:34
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    $\begingroup$ Also, Magma Men live, by definition, only inside the crust of their planet. Otherwise they would be Lava Men. $\endgroup$ – Klaws Oct 24 '17 at 15:23

On unique needs

While species from different worlds will obviously live under different pressures, at different temperatures, and in different material, there aren't so many combinations out there.

Almost all planetary atmospheres are combinations of:

  • Hydrogen
  • Helium
  • Oxygen
  • Neon
  • Nitrogen
  • Carbon
  • Water

And most ocean-dwellers will live in:

  • Water
  • Methane / hydrocarbons
  • Ammonia

This isn't all that diverse, as most of these creatures will be able to breathe to some extent in a reduced number of environments without harmful reactions occurring. You can lump humans in with most nitrogen breathers, and almost all aquatic species will rely on fresh water; sharing may reduce space taken significantly.

It is important to note that other compounds may be mixed in - for example, a saltwater species will not survive in freshwater, and an oxygen-breather won't enjoy carbon monoxide - so that should be factored in to your environments.

Finally, there may be unique cases out there. For these individuals, you are welcome to have separate rooms / systems rigged with pumps; you can simulate the environment they need.

In short, it's not that hard to build rooms for most species.


Consider that most species' ships will already have environments tailored to them, and that individual organisms will come prepared to travel through the environments of both their previous and their destination planets.

This means that they will carry breathing apparatus, and most likely temperature and pressure suits as well.

It's not so much of an inconvenience to keep them together in one environment when that's the norm, and they came prepared.

  • $\begingroup$ C J Cherryh decided to just have oxygen-breathers and methane-breathers on her stations. Since they didn't have much in common anyway they didn't have much to say to each other, but if they did there was a big window and some translation devices. She had other more exotic entities too, and the difficulty of communication added spice to the plot. $\endgroup$ – RedSonja Dec 20 '16 at 15:19

Space Station V has a mandate to ensure the survival and moderate levels of comfort for all species routed through its facilities.

A limited number of self-contained hermetically sealed environments are provided for the comfort of transit passengers using the most common atmospheres.

In the unfortunate event of death or irretrievable loss of dignity, reasonable compensation will be paid to any family/herd members. Registration should be made by filling in a form at this web site - Reporting a Death

If there are any questions, please use the Live Chat

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    $\begingroup$ That Live Chat link gives a Page not found. Maybe login is required? $\endgroup$ – user3106 Dec 19 '16 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Jan - Users are requested to go to this page to report web site issues. Or failing that, this one. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Dec 19 '16 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Pᴇᴛᴇ there is the domain example.com (and example.org, example.net) for just this use case. $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Dec 19 '16 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann - The domain I used was intentional and for satirical reasons. I was hoping this would be somewhat obvious given the satirical nature of Joe's question. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Dec 20 '16 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ I like the broken links. Sorry, I was replying to Paulo, should have been more clear. $\endgroup$ – Sir Adelaide Dec 21 '16 at 6:14

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