A sleeper ship is a hypothetical type of manned spaceship in which most or all of the crew spends the journey in some form of hibernation or suspended animation. As there is currently no known technology that allows for long-term suspended animation of humans, the term is usually only found in science fiction.
The most common role of sleeper ships in fiction is for interstellar travel, usually at slower-than-light speed. Travel times for such journeys could reach into the hundreds or thousands of years, making some form of life extension such as suspended animation necessary for the original crew to live to see their destination. Suspended animation is also required on ships which cannot be used as generation ships, for whatever reason.
Suspended animation can also be useful to reduce the consumption of life support resources by crewmembers who are not needed during the trip, and for this reason sleeper ships sometimes also make an appearance in the context of purely interplanetary travel.
Sleeper ships in specific works of fictionEdit
- The famous movie and book 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, features a ship travelling to Jupiter (Saturn, in the book) with most of its crew in suspended animation and only a handful remaining awake to operate the spacecraft.
- A sleeper ship named SS Botany Bay is seen in the Star Trek episode "Space Seed".
- The Nostromo in the film Alien, and the Sulaco in the film Aliens, are sleeper ships, as are all vessels encountered in the Alien franchise.
- In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri computer game, the colonists arrive at Alpha Centauri on a sleeper ship.
- In Iain M. Banks' book Excession, a large craft named Sleeper Service is portrayed as an eccentric artificial intelligence which travels from system to system, picking up humans for long term suspended animation and eventual deposit elsewhere (at its discretion).
- In Freelancer computer game, a large group of humans leave the earth in five sleeper ships to colonise the Sirius Galaxy.
- In the novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, there is a sleeper ship called Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B, which crash-lands on prehistoric Earth.
Star Wars Edit
A sleeper ship was a sublight interstellar vessel whose inhabitants were placed into suspended animation. Typical sublight speeds made trips between stars take centuries, well beyond a normal human lifespan. Thus, sleeper ships were needed for the colonization of other star systems before the invention of hyperspace technology.