Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sleeping Quarters for Families

If you choose to have families on your ship, (whether it’s a colonization ship, a cruise ship, or just an exploration ship like the Enterprise in Star Trek: Next Generation) you need to think of adding a few more rooms to your ship. In addition to more storage space and a bigger ship store, if you decided not to have a replicator, you need to think of different things when considering sleeping quarters. For quarters with one or two individuals sleeping in it all you need to think about are things like where the beds are, how the bathroom is organized, what colors everything is, and which storage area belongs to whom. When you have quarters assigned to accommodate families, you need to think about a separate sleeping area for the parents than where the kids sleep, even if you decide to create the separation by cloth hung up or moving walls that could turn a single room by day into a number of small sleeping areas by night. Most quarters assigned to families have a bedroom for the parents, a bedroom for each child, a living room area with a couch and chairs for guests and a slightly disconnected area for the kitchen. When you have a replicator you don’t need a place to store and prepare food or do the dishes, you just need to make sure your crew knows how they stand with rations so that everyone gets the same amount of nutrients. A good way to do that would be to have a counter near the replicator saying what has been used for that month and what has been returned so it can be reused.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Create a Basic Space Ship

Well, that brings us to the end of the rooms you need to at least consider when planning out your fictional space ship. Let's review the departments:

Engineering Department makes the ship move and keeps it in one piece through a variety of mechanic and repair shops as well as an engine and power plant of your choosing.

Operations Department keeps the ship on the correct course and manages the weapons on ship.

The smaller departments may seem easy to overlook, but each has its use. The Air Department would maintain and run any small craft or fighter crafts used by the main ship. Deck Department is the one that gets all the painting, preservation, and docking jobs so the other departments can afford to be specailized and focus on thier job. The Administration Department keeps up the crews' records and makes sure they get all the awards they're entitled to.

The last set of departments on ship are also important. The Health Department keeps everyone healthy and out of pain while the Communications Department keeps the ship connected to the outside world and keeps communications running smoothly inside the ship. The Supply Department keeps everyone fed and makes sure they have all the repair parts and supplies they need for however long the ship is away from its homeport.

The last set of posts on what the crew needs on a ship may not fit in any department but moral lifters are a huge part of ship life and should not be overlooked if your crew is to be happy, or at least content, on ship.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fresh Air and Relaxation on Ship

Many ships in television, movies, and books have an observation room of some sort. The idea is that it is a large room for people who need a break from work to sit and stare out at space for whatever reason. If the room is just an empty space with movable chairs or benches it could be used for ceremonies like reenlistments, changes of command, or government ceremonies at different planets. However, most observation rooms shown have at least some sort of garden in it. The garden not only helps with purifying the oxygen on ship, or creating it in many circumstances, but it also creates a place for people to relax away from the unrelenting gray of metal with softer greens and lovely flowers as well as cleaner oxygen than anywhere else on ship.
Having a garden on ship can provide extra food to the messdecks that is fresh daily or weekly. Fresh fruit or vegetables provide nutrients that may not be easily reproduced by replicators or whatever food your ship serves. One problem that having your vegetable and fruit garden in a public location like the observation room is that some people will always be picking it early or moving plants into their quarters to get better food and many in the crew will never get fresh produce. A good idea may be to create a room somewhere that is a hydroponics garden. The room would be secured so only a few people could take care of the garden. If the hydroponics garden is some distance away from the flower garden in the observation room, then the ventilation system wouldn’t have to work so hard to purify the air.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Recreation Rooms

While you’re thinking about amusements for those on your ship you should consider something similar to Star Trek’s halodeck room. There is science in use and currently in the works that could eventually create a nearly believable halogram to make a halodeck real, especially if it had television screens for walls and the ceiling combined with some sort of moving floor. The realism of halograms on the television show may be impossible in the future but virtual reality is growing more and more possible with videogame graphics getting as good as they are. A special room that interacts with a virtual reality headset could work just as well to seemingly transport the wearer light years away for a while. Otherwise you may want to think about would be an arts and crafts room as a release from the tension of the day. Art has the ability to let the creator block out the universe for a while so it’s just the worker and the work, which is just what some people need to deal with the problems in close quarters and distance from family members.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

R and R on the Messdecks

Most people spend all day at work looking forward to getting off work and relaxing: going to see a movie, going on a date, playing videogames, or whatever they do to forget the rigors or brainlessness of their job. While out to sea there really isn’t much to look forward to. Constantly moving, with people on watch posts twenty-four hours a day while underway, the ship literally never sleeps and that constant movement and activity make it hard for some people to relax. If they can’t relax in their off hours the tension of the day will transfer on to the next day and continue on until the tension gets to be too much and people snap in various ways harmful to themselves and possibly others as well. In an effort to avoid the snapping, volunteers from every department and division get together to plan something for each night the ship is underway, or at least a few nights a week. Often they’ll set up a Guitar Hero or Halo tournament or dominoes or a popular movie on a projector or karaoke and ice cream for everyone after work hours. Usually the moral event is held on the messdecks but may be moved to a conference room with a bigger screen. I’ve noticed that some of the television shows comment in passing that they have weekly crew movies, they make little comments such as meeting at the movie or needing to miss the movie for work. Depending on the type of ship you are creating you should decide what amusements your crew will look forward to at the end of the day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recreation and Relaxation on Ship

Something to think about when creating your fictional space ship is where do the people on ship gather to relax after work? On a modern naval vessel the larger berthings have a small lounge attached with a large television for movies, videogames, and just general watching the basic channels. The military has a few networks of their own that pay to show popular television shows, such as CSI and ER, as well as a news channel and a cartoon channel that gets shows from both the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. They also show movies on the main channel and when underway someone on ship can play requested movies on a separate channel.
As well as relaxing in their lounge they can sit and relax with people from other berthings on the messdecks, in the library, or sit and chat with their coworkers in their work spaces. Officers don’t have lounges in their stateroom but there is a medium sized lounge connected to the wardroom where they sit and chat or make decisions on ship board issues. Having someplace to relax and unwind from the workday, whatever part of the day it ends, is a major moral booster that brings a refreshed person back to work and able to deal with the same people day after day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Religion on Ship

Religion is a major part of many peoples’ lives, even in the military. I don’t remember any time they made a big deal about it in the various Star Trek series, besides Deep Space 9 because religion was so important to the species on the planet below the station, but I do remember a scene in the original series where the captain performed a wedding in what looked like a chapel but could have been merely the messdecks with a podium moved there and decorated. Many of the small ships do that on Sundays for the various services, both chaplain-led and lay-led services the chaplain isn’t as qualified for. On any given Sunday away from homeport there can be a number of services ranging from Catholic to Protestant to Buddhist to anything with a big enough following on ship.
Many people don’t go to the services for various reasons, whether because they prefer their literature to the perspective of the chaplain or because there is no service for their religion. Those people find ways to worship on their own. There are also cultures where their very cultures could be considered a religion, such as the Vulcans who spend hours a day meditating to keep their emotions in check or the Klingons to whom honor is the most precious thing in the universe. True, they may not be traditional religion but those are examples of species that have strong obvious motivation. Just a thought on character development but having a place to worship, or at least a designated way a room can be altered to be fit for whatever religious ceremony is expected. The messdecks are the most versatile rooms on modern naval ships although the main deck is usually where huge ceremonies, such as change of commands, are held. In future times the cargo holds may be the easiest rooms to adapt.
One last thing to think about is that the chaplain is the official counselor on modern naval vessels. Although chaplains are ordained members of a church somewhere they are also trained in regular psychology. If a family member dies or someone is contemplating suicide they are immediately sent to the chaplain to talk it out so the service member can calm down enough to not endanger themselves or the crew members by destructive behavior until they can be gotten off ship to go to the funeral or get professional help. I know in Star Trek: Next Generation they had Troy as a professional therapist that could also do anything needed for official records and in Star Trek: Enterprise they said the cook was the unofficial ship therapist. Whether official or unofficial there is likely always someone on ship that everyone talks to for educated help. I don’t think any fully functional government would send a crew through space for long periods of time without a person at least partially trained to deal with the typical problems caused by long periods of time indoors around the same people and away from family.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Continued Education on Ship

One of the big things in the modern military is that there is a huge push to get everyone in some sort of class for higher education. A person can’t get into the military today without a high school degree or a GED and having more college courses on an advancement evaluation than other people means a higher ranking among those trying to get promoted and a more probable promotion. On modern ships there is often a professor on board for any long deployment. That professor teaches a class multiple times a day to accommodate differing work schedules. They meet in a smallish room with a long table that has a computer at each seat and a projector set up on the network to show on a touch screen for the professor to manipulate. When class isn’t going the room is open for those with internet courses or those who just want to get on computer to write their family or friends.
In the future there may be computers in everyone’s individual room but if you plan to have more than five people per room, you should consider having a room with a few public computers so people aren’t fighting each other for time. Also people will always be trying for a college degree for when they leave the military or for faster advancement in their chosen job. You should at least consider how your fictional crew would go about getting classes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Library, Useful to Some and Useless to Others.

Another major moral booster is having a library on ship. On modern naval ships the library is a place to study in quiet, an excellent place for group study sessions for the next advancement exam or a class, and somewhere to pick up a book as a break from someone’s everyday life. Although the stereotypical military person would never willingly read a book, there are always those in every stereotype that break the mold and are rarely seen without a book nearby. Besides, a typical library has lots of reference books that can be used to look up information for classes or just for random facts that have been bugging that person for hours.
Of course, now a days all books are going digital so an actual physical room will likely be redundant in the future (although they may need a special server for all the books throughout history). In the future all anyone may do is download their book onto their electronic reader, such as the modern Kindle or the Sony version, and read it anywhere they want. In the television series Star Trek: Voyager they replicated books by choosing the book to put on the paper and a full book showed up in their replicator. When they finished their book, they just put the book back in the replicator and it was recycled into another book or anything else needed at the moment. There are many ways to handle a library on ship and it is your decision how you want to do it but you never know when it may come up in your writing so it’s best to have at least a basic idea of how it works on your fictional ship.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Exercise on Ship

Now that I’ve discussed the all the things you need to think about or plan into your ship schematics I want to go into moral enhancing rooms or ideas. The first thing to think about is that your crew is stuck on a ship, the same thing as being kept indoors, for long periods of time. How many of you would/do enjoy 24/7 around the same hundred people for a full week with nowhere to run, nowhere to work out emotions you can’t show at work without causing problems? No matter the crew size or ship size, that effect is what happens on ship, especially with so many naturally aggressive and competitive males stuck inside. With that in mind, as well as the fact that the military these days is very careful to ensure the members meet certain physical standards, both in ability and appearance, and you need to think of where people will exercise. You could always expect that everyone brings their own exercise materials but everyone knows that means at least half the crew will actually exercise maybe once a week without a designated place. You could always have a designated cargo room where the running track circles around the boxes and a small storage locker holds small things for group exercise classes such as yoga mats, blow up balls for crunches, and stretch cords for resistance. Another thing you could do is have a small room with a few machines and empty space for stretching or small weight use and a designated running route through the hallways in low traffic areas or part of the hall for running and the other part for walking. In the television show Andromeda there seems to be a running route through the ship but then the ship has almost no crew for most of the series so going for a run anywhere was unlikely to cause anyone problems. What modern naval ships do is they have a room with a few basic machines (bike, elliptical, treadmill, maybe more if there’s space) and the basics in weight lifting (benchpress, pull-ups, free weights,…) in a smallish room with a punching bag off to one corner and during the day, weather permitting, the crew can run on an unobtrusive track on the maindeck. Some of the smaller ships have very little maindeck space so a running track would be too laughable to have but they still have a gym judged to be proportional to crew members.
One last thing to think about is that on basic room can fit for a number of sports if mats are put down with different markings. In high school soccer games and football games are played on the same fields and volleyball games are played on the same court as basketball, on different nights though of course. It wouldn’t be so hard to have different mats rolled up against walls on a backup cargo room that could turn a single soccer field into three or more basketball courts or a basketball court and a tennis or volleyball court. Remember, planners know that space is at a premium on ship and often find ways to put a lot into a few spaces, unless of course your ship is a luxury ship where everything is about space and comfort.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Law Enforcement on Ship

Another necessity on ship that doesn’t really fit in any department are the MAs, or Master-at-Arms. The MAs are the cops on ship and they take care of enforcing the restricted personnel schedules, observing the daily urinalysis requirements, and investigating accusations made on ship for things like stealing, unexplained absences, and alcoholic incidences. Restricted personnel are people who have gone through the ship’s judicial system and the commanding officer sentenced them for restriction. The worst sentence for restriction is 45/45 which means forty-five days of extra duty and forty-five days of only getting half of the usual paycheck. Once sentenced they are unable to leave the ship without supervision and paperwork for the assigned amount of time. They also have to be at a specified location, usually near the MA Shack, or office, at about 6:30 each morning, 12:30 each afternoon, and 6:00 each night. At the 6:00 meeting each night, except Sunday, the personnel are “checked-out” and assigned to someone on ship who requested their help for the night. Two hours each night they are assigned extra duty, usually cleaning the division didn’t want to do during the day or other manual work the division didn’t have time to do during the workday. At 8:00 the restricted personnel meet at the designated location to end their night and they have to be in their berthing from 10 pm to 5am or their chief needs to say why they were elsewhere since work is the only accepted explanation. Each Sunday the restricted personnel are allowed two hours on the mess deck with guests, usually children or just spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, before going back to the usual routine.
Another part of the ship’s law enforcement is shore patrol. This is a group of people from the ship who are sent out to busy areas of the port to watch for trouble brewing, such as crew members that are more than tipsy and need help getting back to ship, injured personnel that need help getting back to ship, and anything else that may come up. Although they have no more authority than any other civilian they are connected to the ship so they can get the duty van to the location fast and they are often witnesses if things go too far.