What reasons could motivate the building and subsequent launching of a million-population generation colonization ship in a near-future ambientation?

Earth is not in immediate danger, there are not alien intelligence influence, nor the mission assumes a return (and it will last more than 500 years), and only 'almost-today' technology are available. The people of the ship are intended to have a reasonably free lifestyle, so authoritarian governmental motivations are unwanted.

Suggestions on what would motivate the first passengers to alist to the mission and how this reason could help to keep the next generations committed to the mission are welcomed.

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    $\begingroup$ One could imagine all kinds of stuff, but you don't need a strong motivation tbo. There are 8 billion people on earth. If you are able to build that ship - which I believe is the only reason why we don't have one - you will find more than enough people that are willing to join you for whatever personal reasons. Some things are worth doing just because they can be done, spaceships are one of these things. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Nov 21 '17 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ What would motivate people? Pretty much anything. There are over 7 billion people and their motivations are complex and varied. I'm unsure how you expect us to give a definitive answer to this question in anything but the most general terms. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Nov 21 '17 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ A colonization space ship containing a million people capable of lasting 500 years is beyond current and "almost-today" technology, unless you want to play fast and loose with the definition of "almost-today" $\endgroup$ – Slarty Nov 21 '17 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: The fact that there ARE 8 billion people on Earth seems like reason enough in itself. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 21 '17 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ Is this a duplicate? I've asked worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/4740/… before $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Nov 21 '17 at 22:31

Literally anything, if the technology is attainable.

In The Expanse, Mormons commission the building of a generation ship for religious reasons, to travel to Tau Ceti.

In the Rama series, The Rama is built to find intelligent life and bring them back so the Rama's creator can meet them.

There are tons of examples like this. Some include spreading to the stars for the simple sake of spreading to the stars. Exploration would be a huge motivator.

Finding a new source of resources could be another without having to live in a vacuum.

Wanting to start their own country/society that just can't flourish on earth could be another reason.

There could be a space race to find habitable worlds funded by some eccentric billionaire.


A reasonable idea of motivation is to prevent the same type of extinction event from affecting us as did the dinosaurs. If the human race is spread throughout the galaxy/universe, it will take more than just a single comet/meteor/ID4 style alien invasion to wipe us out.

This has been the motivating factor in many science fiction books, as well as in real life. Don't want the neighboring tribe to completely wipe you out? Split off to a second tribe and new location.

Given enough foresight, splitting your population will work much better if it is done in advance of any emergency.

Heck, simple colonization of a "new world" is often reason enough for some people. Whether they want religious freedom, a new challenge, or to get away from their overbearing parents, people will want to move to a new place. A new planet, colonization ship, etc. are all "exciting" places to move.

One of the best ""generations ship" books I've read is Rendezvous with Rama. It's the beginning of a series, and the ship is from alien origins, but it's a really good read.

Later books in the Gateway series also includes large star ships where people make new lives, with the first book being about people who will risk their lives to explore the mystery ships in an effort to strike it rich. Another really good read.


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