When the world is ending there’s only one way out: You’re going to need a “space ark” Sometimes the ark’s creators are worried that bad things are about to happen and it’s time to get out of Dodge. Other times the goal isn’t to abandon an imperiled planet, but rather to set out in search of a new place to settle among the stars. One variant is the so-called “generation ship,” a vessel designed to allow its human occupants to live out many generations before it finally reaches its distant destination.
If you had to book passage on one of science fiction’s space arks, which one would be best to board? After all, they each have their advantages and disadvantages, ranging from robots designed to attend to your every need, to hungry cannibals determined to eat your every part. Get your tickets early, people; it’s time to see what’s out there.
Atomic Rockets (When Worlds Collide)
In Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer’s 1933 novel When Worlds Collide, South African astronomer Sven Bronson discovers a pair of rogue planets that are headed toward Earth and bringing all manner of trouble with them. Bronson A (he got to name them, obviously) will come close enough to cause tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions…not to mention it’ll wipe out the moon. But once it whips around the sun, things are going to get really bad, because it’s going to hit Earth dead on and destroy our homeworld. Naturally, several nations begin work on “atomic rockets” that can transport some of Earth’s population and animals to a new home on the second rogue world, Bronson B.
Advantages: Well, not being pulverized by a rogue planet is definitely a mark in the “pro” column. What’s more, Bronson B is not only habitable, but contains technology and cities left over by previously unknown alien inhabitants.
Disadvantages: You might have noticed we said the rockets could transport some of Earth’s population. Some ain’t by any stretch the same thing as all, and as you would expect, things turn violent when it comes time to decide who gets to go and who gets ringside seats for the end of the world. Moreover, the sequel, After Worlds Collide, reveals that the colonists still manage to find plenty of danger on Bronson B.