Several times on board a "Star Ship" the hulls have been compromised expelling crew members into space. Why not have an emergency system whereas when a person is ejected into space a transporter automatically beams that person back on board?

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    The transporters are one of the first pieces of equipment which stop working, go offline, there is too much intereference to use them etc... Therefore, if the hull itself is compromised, I think that the transporters have already been offline for some time. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 13:35
  • I like this idea, but it's likely that the hull would have been compromised during some sort of battle. You'd need someone to manually control the transport of potentially multiple crew members, and they might be assigned somewhere else during the conflict? Also, how long can someone survive in space while waiting?
    – Longshanks
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 13:36
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    Oh, come on, the Enterprise has several transporter rooms staffed by people who's sole job is to just sit there and wait on the off chance somebody will want to be transported that day. See Chief O'Brien At Work. You could at least give them the extra job of, "Hey, during red alerts, beam anybody in danger to safety." Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 13:59
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    @starpilotsix Fair point. Apparently a human can survive up to 15 seconds in space, so as long as they can lock onto someone within that time then they might be OK.
    – Longshanks
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 14:38
  • Such a system would be great, until it started going off when people weren’t actually in space. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 23:03

5 Answers 5


Examining a prime example of this in action:

From what we see, the first line of defense should be the emergency bulkhead, but in the example above it fails to initiate in a timely manner. Given that the processes involved in determining whether or not there's a hole in the hull should be comparatively simple compared to deciding if a crewmember is in or out of the ship (and whether or not they should be in or out, since they might be in a spacesuit) and then transporting them back in, we can probably assume that either:

  1. The bulkheads are normally considered sufficient, so no programming exists for the transporters.
  2. The bulkheads are malfunctioning, in which case the transporters may be as well.

There may also be considerable risk in programming the computer to auto-transport. If someone were to hack the computer, such a system could be reversed to place people out into space instead. Considering we don't see automated beaming of intruders into the brig or injured crew to sickbay (I can't recall any cases of fully automated transporting in the shows actually), it may be safe to say that Starfleet chose to prevent the computer from running transports without direct human control/initiation for safety/security reasons.

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    There's also the usual Star Trek, "This would make a lot of sense for future technology, so we're gonna pretend the computer's somehow too dumb to figure it out to make the plot more dramatic." Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 15:06
  • @DisturbedNeo Well, yes, but that's pretty much a given for any fantasy setting, and really only answers the question out-of-universe. The same applies to why Harry can't use magic to turn Voldemort into a potato. It's exactly as powerful as it needs to be for the plot at a given moment, and the exceptions will always be the rule exactly when they need to be.
    – Mwr247
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 15:48

Shields block the transporter, and in combat a ship is going to have shields full on.

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    The shields tend to extend around the ship at a distance away from the hull, meaning beaming from within that space shouldn't be an issue.
    – Mwr247
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 16:28
  • What would happen to a person who was ejected from the ship when he hit the shields (from the inside)? Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 19:52
  • Shields are also used for hull breach containment. look at the beginning of Star Trek: Generations, when the Enterprise crew is standing in seemingly open space at the breached location where Kirk disappeared. +1 - I find this answer to be the most plausible in universe explanation.
    – RedOculus
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 14:46

In ENT, the transporters were normally only used for cargo and not for people (multiple episodes, Star Trek: Enterprise). In TOS, beaming within the ship was considered unsafe or at least risky (Star Trek 3x11 "Day of the Dove"). For both time periods, it seems unlikely that they would be able to develop a system of the sort that the question describes.

From TNG on, this is less obviously problematic. However, as early as the launch of the Enterprise-B, ships were capable of projecting emergency force fields to seal hull breaches, and were programmed to do this automatically (Star Trek: Generations). This greatly reduces the need for an emergency beam-out system. Combine this with the simple fact that, when a person is sucked out into space,[1] they are moving and therefore hard to lock onto,[2] and this whole design just seems rather improbable to me.

[1]: "Correction, sir, that's blown out into space" - Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation 1x03 "The Naked Now"
[2]: If you accept the Abramsverse as canon, Star Trek (2009) provides an example of this being difficult but not impossible with a sufficiently talented transporter operator.


Realistically the reason is to add tension and drama to the story.

In universe there are many situations where a transporter lock requires manual input. On top of that if the ship is in combat it's possible that the computer's are busy with processing other combat related tasks or that power is being routed to shields and weapons rather than transporters.


In the ENT episode "Cold Station 12", Archer is briefly in open space and transported aboard so a human could survive in open space and be transported back. Throughout the series we have seen numerous examples of reviving the dead so it is reasonable to assume that a shipmate flung into open space could be revived after a much longer time that we are currently able to at this point in reality: https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Death

Knowing this; and with the chaos and confusion of a battle, power needs for weapons and shields, and not being able to drop shields to transport, it may have simply not been a priority to retrieve them immediately as they would most likely be recoverable and revivable after some time.

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