Strange Brouhaha

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Designing a spaceship

I was sitting at my workbench this weekend matting some pictures for framing, and I realized that I was sitting at my workbench, relatively pain-free. That means, among other things, that I can sit at my workbench and contemplate model-building again.

Today's spaceship design question, which is fodder for my brain as I try to come up with a cool-looking design to build, is this: why would you put the part of the ship with all of the important officers in it on the outside?

We're talking about the bridge on a capital ship, of course. Think of some famous starship designs: the USS Enterprise, Star Destroyers, the Galactica, the Rodger Young. They all have their command bridges in an exposed location, sometimes separated from space only by an unspecified thickness of transparent material. In some cases, like the Star Destroyers and all Federation starships, the bridge is pretty much a big fat target sitting right out in the open, exposed.


Two obvious answers: first, it looks cool; and second, designers are influenced by naval vessels rather than trying to design something that might actually see space and combat.

A third reason might be that, at least in the case of the Federation starships, there's a misconception that we have to design ships that look like and act like fighters. I always thought I wanted to see a Star Trek space battle, until I actually saw one in Star Trek: The Meeting Generation and realized that we had special effects people who think that hundreds of thousands of tons of steel can turn on a dime.

I think the first reason is pretty sound. After all, you want something that looks cool, and what looks cooler than having that command section sticking out prominently, exposed, giving the ship commander a view of his ship?

That really just ties in with the second reason. You have ships that are influenced to a greater or lesser extent by existing Earth naval vessels--the Yamato and the Arcadia being two prime examples of "greater". Thing is, there's a reason that Earth naval vessels have their bridges placed prominently: so they can SEE. The bridge of a cruise ship is a huge, glassed-in affair that allows the captain and crew to see the sea.

Spaceships don't need that. A spaceship bridge can be a hardened bunker in the middle of a ship, with the best shielding and ventilation and what have you. Cameras can do all the seeing (as on the Enterprise, for example). You can even have a huge wraparound display in a starship bridge. There's just no need to have it outside.

So that's my current phallic bridge, or more room for guns?


  • (Savannah) But how about when all the cameras are busted in a worst case scenario? Do you not then want the command center to have a backup method to see what is going on, aka windows? Maybe not. Just asking.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:10 AM  

  • They don't seem to worry about it on Star Trek. Maybe their cameras are coated in magic.

    One thing I forgot to mention is that there are a lot of real-life space concerns that would also mitigate against having the bridge (or any crew areas) stuck out in the open. Primary among them is radiation. Radiation, really, is what's going to prevent us from exploring and/or colonizing the galaxy.

    By Blogger Robert, at 7:20 AM  

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