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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old May 21 2012, 08:08 PM   #1
DavidGutierrez
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Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

My query is twofold;

First, we all know that the Intrepid-class starships are capable of routine planetfall and taking off again. How many other Federation starships are? We've heard over and over that the saucer section of a Galaxy-class is supposed to be able to land on a planet in an emergency, but not take off again. Also, the MSDs for the Nova and Defiant-class show landing struts. And, obviously the Danube-class can land (yes, they are starships too). But, how many others? Is there any independent confirmation of those I listed up there?

Second, why land in the first place? The instances when Voyager landed were rather extraordinary sets of circumstances in and of themselves, but Chakotay balked the first time Janeway suggested it in "The 37's." So, why land? Why not send a shuttlecraft or the aeroshuttle down?

It's similar to why modern starships have docking ports as well. Why dock when you can beam?

Thoughts?
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Old May 21 2012, 08:23 PM   #2
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Transporters can break down or be interfered with. It's foolish to depend exclusively on a single option and not have any backups available. There's no telling what circumstances a starship may encounter, so the more versatile the ship's design is, the better. Voyager needed to land when the planetary conditions interfered with transporters and were too turbulent for shuttles, so only something with the power of the ship itself could land. I think they landed to hide from pursuers in "Dragon's Teeth." We also saw one case where they landed the ship so they could perform an engine overhaul they didn't have the means to perform in space. More generally, landing capability is built into Starfleet vessels as an emergency "lifeboat" option, something that's not meant to be used in normal operations but is there as a last resort to save the crew in case of catastrophic failure.

As for using docking ports, simple efficiency is an advantage there. If two ships can dock to each other, then it takes no more power to cross between them than it requires to open a few sets of doors. Transporters, by contrast, must surely use a great deal of power. Although it was mainly in Enterprise that we saw ships docking to one another; in the 24th century we mainly saw docking ports used for securing ships to space stations. Although we did see shuttle dockings in TMP and TWOK.
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Old May 21 2012, 08:30 PM   #3
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Regarding the ability to land, every starship should have that as default. After all, they can not only withstand, but actually ignore accelerations of hundreds or thousands of gees; it should be trivial for them to land on the surface of a solid world, and only mildly challenging to settle on the surface of a neutron star. Their engines in turn can provide said accelerations, so takeoff from the neutron star should not take particularly long or cause much of a whine from the engine room.

The fact that most starships just aren't shaped for landing is probably telling. But that shouldn't stop them from performing the landing: a Constitution could easily land on her belly, or the tip of her left nacelle, and then spend a year or six there with the engines on stationkeeping.

The ability to actually shut down all the magical gadgets and come to a rest on a planetary surface is something the engineers might consider a challenge. Probably not even the Voyager comes close to that; she'd tip over, collapse and sink to the bedrock if power really were turned off on everything that makes a starship a starship.

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Old May 21 2012, 08:34 PM   #4
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Sydney class is probably landing capable since it has one boat shaped hull.

Having a ship on the ground is actually a good idea when you're building a colony, first of all it can bring down materials and later on serve as a powerplant and transporter station, when the colony is self sufficient the ship can leave and haul more materials.
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Old May 21 2012, 08:48 PM   #5
DavidGutierrez
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Timo wrote: View Post
The ability to actually shut down all the magical gadgets and come to a rest on a planetary surface is something the engineers might consider a challenge. Probably not even the Voyager comes close to that; she'd tip over, collapse and sink to the bedrock if power really were turned off on everything that makes a starship a starship.

Timo Saloniemi

I should think that would be one of the main points of landing. Plus, Even though the four landing struts on the Intrepid-class are on the secondary hull, I think the weight distribution makes that make sense. All of the deuterium and antimatter storage tanks are in the stardrive section.
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Old May 21 2012, 08:50 PM   #6
DavidGutierrez
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Santaman wrote: View Post
Sydney class is probably landing capable since it has one boat shaped hull.

Having a ship on the ground is actually a good idea when you're building a colony, first of all it can bring down materials and later on serve as a powerplant and transporter station, when the colony is self sufficient the ship can leave and haul more materials.

I had never thought of it that way, but that makes a lot of sense. To build on your line of reasoning but transfer it back to starships, perhaps the ability to land could create a planetary defense station.
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Old May 21 2012, 09:25 PM   #7
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

DavidGutierrez wrote: View Post
My query is twofold;

First, we all know that the Intrepid-class starships are capable of routine planetfall and taking off again. How many other Federation starships are? We've heard over and over that the saucer section of a Galaxy-class is supposed to be able to land on a planet in an emergency, but not take off again. Also, the MSDs for the Nova and Defiant-class show landing struts. And, obviously the Danube-class can land (yes, they are starships too). But, how many others? Is there any independent confirmation of those I listed up there?

Second, why land in the first place? The instances when Voyager landed were rather extraordinary sets of circumstances in and of themselves, but Chakotay balked the first time Janeway suggested it in "The 37's." So, why land? Why not send a shuttlecraft or the aeroshuttle down?

It's similar to why modern starships have docking ports as well. Why dock when you can beam?

Thoughts?
It's a bit like a naval vessel pulling up and berthing to a port. Why bother pulling in to port when you've got a perfectly good helicopter and some boats on board? It's just operational convenience: it's easier to walk across a gangplank than it is to board a helicopter, start up the engine, fly halfway across town to the nearest helipad and then set down just so you can take a cab to wherever it is you're going.

I would guess there are probably tactical reasons too. On the one hand, we've seen that orbital bombardment by starships is possible with either phasers or photon torpedoes. But the PRESENCE of a starship looming overhead with all its weapons bearing down on you can have a psychological effect in its own right and can end a conflict without having to fire a shot. Beyond that, of course, there's also the possible utility that a starship that lacks a cloaking device could just as soon conceal itself by dropping into the atmosphere and hiding in a deep canyon or something here the local [tech] minerals can obscure enemy sensors.
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Old May 21 2012, 09:47 PM   #8
Timo
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

...And if you want to defeat a ground army, but that army has weapons that can hurt a starship, you might want to pick a beautiful little area of hard, exposed bedrock, fire your ventral phasers as you come down so that the bedrock features a starship-sized pit by the time you touch down, and then settle in that pit so that your dorsal phasers peek out. Now the enemy needs to penetrate more than just your shields in order to fire back at you - kilometer upon kilometer of rock for starters - while you can still enfilade the battlefield from horizon to horizon.

Won't do any good against an enemy that can fly (for more than a few seconds before you blast him out of the sky, that is) and fire at you from above. But a good trick against ground armies nevertheless.

There's plenty of (unintended) logic in the design of the Klingon BoP in this respect. When resting on a planetary surface, the bird stows its wings - and elevates its main guns to a commanding position above the battlefield!

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Old May 21 2012, 10:22 PM   #9
Wingsley
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

I'm really torn on this.

On the one hand, a spacefaring civilization capable of launching starships to deep space at warp speeds should logically not be encumbered at the prospect of landing if the need arises. At the very least, a Constitution-class vessel should be able to jettison her saucer section for controlled planetfall. (But this doesn't seem plausible for ships like the Miranda, unless I'm missing something...)

On the other hand, you're talking about landing a starship on a planet (presumably with suitable surface for landing and a habitable biosphere for the crew to exploit), thus exposing the ship, crew and planetary environment to the risk of landing a matter/anti-matter-using spacecraft on its surface. What happens if something goes wrong? What if the ship develops a problem during planetfall or while on the surface? And the ultimate issue: what if U.S.S. Starfire has successfully landed and powered down, then a Klingon, Romulan or other alien hostile ship settles into orbit high above? The hostile ship doesn't have to even come close to scoring any direct hits; just one nuke nearby will ruin everything for the Starfire's crew. There's also the question of what would happen if you had a crew and ship settled on the surface and some natural disaster were to occur (tornado, forest fire, flood, earthquake, meteor strike, you name it). Would a landed starship, in essence, become a "sitting duck"?

The Federation may frown on one of its capital ships being used for that kind of activity. After all, even if the Starship Reliant were capable of landing on a planet surface (maybe she is) fully intact, with the prospect of launching again, there would always be the open question "what if something went wrong?" If the landing were botched, and the Reliant crashed, this scenario suggests the possibility of loosing an entire capital ship, her crew, and whatever cargo she may be carrying. (All this also assumes there is a nice, mild planet to land safely on in the first place.)

Starfleet may also have protocols in place to discourage planetfall. If a given planet is habitable, the Federation is unlikely to want to "take the plunge" into an alien biosphere. One issue that has been mostly glossed over in the STAR TREK Universe is the exposure of the crew to biological agents (a la "The Omega Glory"). It's bad enough if a crew dies because of an alien infection. To immerse the ship in an alien biosphere, risking hazards potentially a hundred-fold greater, would seem out of the question. Then there's the question of the Prime Directive. Forget about why planetfall on many of the inhabited worlds seen in TREK would be out of the question because the presence of a starship would constitute interference with an alien culture. What about the security risk? (Imagine a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court scenario, only with King Arthur scheming to lead Mongol hordes in the conquest of the prize Starfire.) Even on an uninhabited world, landing could expose the local flora and fauna to unforeseen contamination from the landing starship and crew.

I would expect that the Federation would discourage starship planetfalls in all but carefully planned expeditions. The philosphy that Starfleet would use might be "keep your ship in orbit, even if it's an unpowered, natural orbit on autopilot". If the crew has to leave the ship for a large-complement mission or some forced evacuation, that's what transporters and embarked craft are for. Leaving the ship in orbit means that if anything happens on the surface of the planet, the orbiting Starfire is still untouched. If the Starfire were crippled and unable to leave or call for help, all the more reason to use embarked craft to seek out raw materials for repairs while the ship is partially or entirely powered down.

I would think a more thoughtful scenario would be how the Federation designs and deploys specialized spacecraft for colonization of specialized short-term expeditions.

In one scenario I could envision, a Constitution-class starship would layover at a starbase or other Federation dockyard. The Connie's saucer section would be temporarily jettisoned, kept in storage for the duration of the mission. A specially fabricated one-way-mission saucer would be attached to the Connie, so that the Connie could journey to a distant star with a skeleton crew (possibly the saucer inhabited by a committed expeditionary crew) and jettison the "mission module" for deployment either on the surface of a planetoid/asteroid or to stay in space and serve as a highly protected, highly mobile base. (Like a MASH unit)

Another scenario would be to deploy highly specialized, mission-tailored cargo modules, tugged to a remote mission location by a Ptolemy or Forbin's Sultana or some robot warptug (warptugs discussed here). Each transport module would be a near-orbit-capable spacecraft, with the capacity to handle hundreds of expedition/colonization personnel, either to be inserted into orbit to serve as a space station or to be jettisoned into controlled planetfall. These mission modules would serve as either a temporary "base camp" or as colonial "building kits". What these modules would look like, inside or out, is something I can only begin to imagine now.
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Old May 21 2012, 11:02 PM   #10
C.E. Evans
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

I like to think that the landing ability for some ships began solely as an emergency option, that gradually can be seen as a mission option too. For a Nova-class ship (just as an example) I can imagine the vessel landing on a planet's surface for a long-term research mission that might last several weeks (if not a couple of months). In such a scenario, the ship becomes a planetside base for the research teams. When finished with one area, the ship can then fly like an aircraft to another location.
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Old May 21 2012, 11:24 PM   #11
Wingsley
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

It would be interesting to explore the possibilities of my TOS-era "mission saucer scenario", both in terms of a story and in terms of what such a "one-way-mission module" would look like in comparison to the standard starship saucer.

It would also be interesting to explore the possibility of what could be done in the STAR TREK Universe with a very large, embarked craft. I'm thinking of another kind of "mission module", this one capable of limited spaceflight and planetfall but too large to fit into a hangar deck. Maybe something that a Connie would attach in that concavity on the underside of the secondary hull, carry the craft from one deep space expeditionary site to another unimpeded at warp speed, and "drop off" to deploy for independent operations. Not sure if such a vessel would have limited warp capability like a shuttlecraft or maybe just impulse.

Here's another scenario:

What if a starship of the Miranda configuration, like Reliant, were indeed capable of planetfall? What would that look like? Would the ship jettison her nacelles, with just the fat saucer-ish hull making re-entry? Or would the whole ship take the plunge?
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Old May 22 2012, 12:09 AM   #12
publiusr
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Well the J.J Prise would have to take off. But I could think of something even more impressive. Imagine an asteroid rotorvator. It looks like a bola with a tail. It could land a huge chunk of matter and drag same from the orbit in a hand off. Anti-gravity would help keep a kind of neural bouyancy, but the added heft of the rotorvator would allow a stunning sequence.
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Old May 22 2012, 02:09 AM   #13
blssdwlf
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Here's another scenario:

What if a starship of the Miranda configuration, like Reliant, were indeed capable of planetfall? What would that look like? Would the ship jettison her nacelles, with just the fat saucer-ish hull making re-entry? Or would the whole ship take the plunge?
We can look at the shuttles of TOS. Their nacelles are on the bottom of the ship like a Miranda and they do not need to discard them in order to land.
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Old May 22 2012, 02:47 AM   #14
MatthiasRussell
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

I don't think ALL Starfleet ships need to have the ability to land but it is very useful. It would be useful for a long range explorer or survey craft to be able to land so it could be used as a planet-side base of operations. We also saw Voyager landing so it could conduct massive rework and repairs since many operations would be easier to do in a planetary environment.

There has always been and continues to be a use for amphibious airplanes that can land on sea and land, but that is definitely not the norm.

In regards to the Defiant being able to land. Drexler said on his blog that he didn't like putting landing gear on the Defiant but the order to have it on the LCARS display came from above him.
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Old May 22 2012, 04:16 AM   #15
yenny
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Re: Landing starships - crazy or inexplicable?

The Constitution Class starships are design to separate it saucer section from the engineering hull encase of emergency. In the TOS episode The Apple. Kirk tell Scotty to jettison the nacelles.
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