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The Space Ark

The Starlost space ark was built by technicians on a doomed Earth who had developed space travel technology for over 300 years. They had built settlement colonies on Mars, Venus, and Earth's moon, that, at the time, held a research station but little else. Mankind had sent 20 exploration flights beyond the solar system. None had returned. Then a massive cataclysm (hinted to be the sun going supernova) threatened to destroy the colonies on Mars, Venus, and Earth. Mankind began the most monumental construction project ever undertaken by humans.

In high orbit, between the Earth and the Moon, they began to build the Ark. It was 200 miles long, designed to support a population of 500,000 people, all genetically screened and representative of all races and cultures on Earth. This massive lifeboat was built to carry the seed of humankind to the stars. With these survivors went animals, hydroponic gardens, and a supercargo of supplies and equipment.

 These were all organized into clusters of separate globular environmental domes, each some fifty miles in diameter. The domes were linked by tubular corridors that carried life support, power, communications and other systems. Each dome contained a completely enclosed ecology large enough to support a sizable population of colonists. From the inside, the dome looked and felt like an isolated valley -- large enough to sustain villages and farms, streams and hills, forests and meadows. These "valleys" were walled, not by mountains but by the structure of the dome itself.

Traveling at just under light speed on its CTR drive (Controlled Thermonuclear Reactor), which used hydrogen as its fuel, converted through a nuclear reactor into helium, it sped through the solar system, out past the dark and frigid giants of the solar system, and entered interstellar space. It traveled for one hundred years.

Then, something terrible happened to the ship. The strange fate that had befallen the twenty deep space ships that Earth had previously launched now befell the Ark. In a defensive measure, the pressure doors sealed, isolating the domed regions of the ship. The ark pressed further into space without anyone at the helm to guide her.