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I think source material might be sparse and I'm not sure if there is more than the original screenplay.

In Passengers we learn the ships travel to a colony and back to earth. In the movie this cycle takes at least 240 years. We also learn the ships make multiple trips to different colonies.

Is there any explanation given to the viability of reusing 240 year old technology? It seems when the ship returns to earth it would essentially be an antique.

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    If the ship is still functional, and performs comparably to modern ships, there's no obvious reason not to continue to use it despite the technology being out-of-date. The same reasoning is applied today to other expensive things, e.g., buildings. (They might well replace, e.g., the computers, perhaps even the engines.) – Harry Johnston Jun 10 '17 at 1:45
  • I would think after 200 years things would have gotten faster and more efficient. Just because something works doesn't mean it still makes sense to use it. – Michael Gantz Jun 10 '17 at 1:50
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    If there was a major breakthrough in engine technology that made the engines far more powerful, and for some reason it was impossible to put newer engines into the older ship, it might become uneconomical to continue to use older ships. Otherwise, why not keep using them? That doesn't mean you don't build new ships as well, of course. The only other reason to throw away the old ones would be if you had more than you could use, and that seems unlikely. (Mind you, I haven't actually seen the movie.) – Harry Johnston Jun 10 '17 at 2:00
  • I'm sure new ships would get used, but also be expensive and be in limited supply. No point in retiring the majority of your fleet after a single run because some of the technology has improved. Just charge lower ticket prices for the older ships, retrofit them with whatever is worth the cost. – user31178 Jun 10 '17 at 5:43
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There are potentially two option here;

1) The ship is not obsolete. It remains the acme.

Your assumption here is that technology is still advancing and that when they return home, the ship will have been superseded by more advanced technology. The flipside of that is that it's certainly not beyond the realms of reality to imagine that this ship is already capable of transporting the maximum number of people at the maximum possible speed.

With a self-repairing, self-cleaning and apparently infallible ship (note that this is the first time that a sleeper unit has ever broken down), presumably all that needs to be done when it arrives home is to refuel/restock it, replace any broken components, give the crew a few weeks furlough and then send them straight back out again.

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Passengers: Original Screenplay


2) Bits of the ship are obsolete

In the event that technology has moved on, the ship appears to be modular in construction. Jim is able to replace the entire computer core simply by taking the broken part out and slotting in a new one.

Again, it's certainly feasible that the ship has received multiple upgrades over its lifetime with the main living areas simply being the bits they've kept while upgrading everything else. In the original script Gus states that he's made multiple trips on the Excelsior Avalon and just lives wherever they land it until it's ready to fly again.

  • It's hard to imagine in this day and age that software bloat wouldn't have rendered the computers useless after 200 years. I guess that's why we call it fiction. Great write up. – Michael Gantz Jun 10 '17 at 23:25
  • @MichaelGantz - My microwave oven is a pretty solid example of technological stagnation. Someone from the 1970s would recognise it and could easily repair it with contemporaneous parts. My instinct is that in 50 years, much the same will still be true. – Valorum Jun 10 '17 at 23:27
  • Interesting. My microwave has several microprocessors a bunch of software (for a microwave) and a bunch of proprietary parts. Fixing it would be limited to swapping out components for most folks even today. If a processor board blows there are very few people who could actually fix it. Not having source code available would be a hinderance. Cars today are the same way, even swapping an ECU requires special tools. Building one from scratch would be almost impossible. – Michael Gantz Jun 10 '17 at 23:33
  • @MichaelGantz - The timer clock is almost wholly unnecessary in the operation of your microwave. You could replace it with a set of metal sliders and an alarm clock if you felt like taking the time. – Valorum Jun 11 '17 at 0:01
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With sleeper ships time really is not an issue faster ships are probably sent out as the technological progress allows however space is vast and if the slow ships are still usable you may as well still use them, maybe upgrade them if economically feasible

There is also the issue of technological plateau how far can the technology be refined, unless you discover an ftl propulsion method the only thing you could really do is make the components smaller allowing for more cargo in the same sized hull

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