2018-06-29 16:34:30 UTC
Interstellar space travel will require lots of sex
by TRISTAN GREENE — 1 day ago in ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
(Lots of variation in population in generation ship stories in sci-fi,
from small of just a couple people, example "Orphans in the Sky", land
on new world, or 5 couples in "Seed of Light", to thousands in
"The Songs from Distant Earth")
Interstellar space travel will require lots of sex Credit: Nicole Gray
A pair of scientists from France developed an algorithm to determine the
minimum amount of sexually active couples it would take to maintain a
human crew inside of a spaceship for 6,300 years – the time it would
take to reach the nearest star beyond the sun.
Let’s get it on: The Heritage algorithm, as its called, powers a
simulation that determines the likelihood of humans reaching Proxima
Centauri using current technology. In order to get people there from
Earth, the mission would require multiple generations of people to live
their entire lives in space while the vehicle makes the millenniums-long
voyage. And that means the initial crew, and subsequent offspring, would
have a responsibility to procreate.
Go deeper: The simulation predicts survivability by taking various
breeding paradigms into consideration. It factors in variables such as
an unknown catastrophe which effectively wipes out one third of the
crew, and takes things like menopause, infertility, and inbreeding into
According to the team’s white paper:
By restricting the offspring to being genetically pure, we found that
50±15 percent missions successfully reach their destination for
restricted mating between 25 initial breeding pairs. If the initial crew
is comprised of 34 initial breeding pairs, the chances to reach their
destination with a completely genetically healthy crew rise up to 94-98
percent. An initial ship with 98 settlers (49 initial breeding pairs)
ensures a mission with a 100 percent success rate at 3-σ significance.
We can then conclude that, under the parameters used for those
simulations, a minimum crew of 98 settlers is needed for a 6300-year
multi-generational space journey towards Proxima Centauri b.
The climax: According to Heritage, less than 100 people would be
absolutely necessary to breed our way across the universe to the nearest
star. This, of course, doesn’t take into account the various X factors
that could affect such a mission – for example, there’s no research on
fertility rates in deep space. And it’s unclear what the psychological
state of a group of people who’ve only ever lived on a traveling
spaceship would be like.
Would you make love across the cosmos to spread the seed of humanity to
distant planets and solar systems? And, more importantly, what would
your spaceship be called? Let us know in the comments.