The plot is something happens to the ship, time dilation millions of years, the ship's AI is damaged but before it goes offline it relieves the Captain and puts the science officer in charge. They return to Earth and it is tidally-locked. The Captain wants to find a habitable planet but the science officer decides to restart the Earth's rotation.

There is much tension between the science officer and the captain due to the chain of command but the AI, knowing it only has seconds before shutting down, puts the science officer in charge for a very specific reason (don't want to give away the end if you haven't read it).

I read this I believe in an anthology in the 80s. Searched the Internet, no luck.

  • 3
    Welcome to the site. You can post spoilers by adding >! to the start of a line. It may help with tracking down the story.
    – M_the_C
    Aug 13, 2022 at 15:04
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    Give away the ending.
    – user14111
    Aug 13, 2022 at 15:06
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    Hiding the ending just makes it harder for people to find it. Stick it behind a spoiler tag if you feel that you must
    – Valorum
    Aug 13, 2022 at 15:27
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    @Missourian - Someone using a different account with the same name as yours has attempted to edit this question. If that's you, and you can no longer access the account you used to post this question, please merge your new account with the previous one by following the instructions provided here. In doing so, you'll regain the ability to edit this question yourself, leave comments within this thread, and mark a correct answer as accepted. Aug 13, 2022 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


This sounds like One Face, a short story by Larry Niven, first published in 1965. Rather than a science officer though, the ship's AI, "The Brain", gave command to an astrophysicist traveling on the ship.

From the wikipedia summary:

During a routine hyperspace jump, an accident involving a small meteoroid striking into the machinery causes the ship to be trapped in a stasis until billions of years have passed. They emerge in the Solar System's far future, at which time the sun has become a greenish-white dwarf and Earth has lost its atmosphere and become a tidally locked world; i.e., it only presents one face to the sun. The ship's main computer has also been damaged, so its decision to have the captain replaced by one of the passengers to maximize survival causes disagreement. The damage to the ship prevents it traveling faster than light, and the passengers and crew debate using the ship's remaining sub-light engine to travel relativistically to a neighboring star to look for a more viable planet.

Reluctantly, believing that any other similarly senescent star will offer no better option, the people accede to the new captain's order to land on Earth despite the lack of an atmosphere. However, this is not a haphazard decision by the new captain, who is an astrophysicist. He is convinced that there is a remnant atmosphere frozen on the dark side, and uses the ship's drive to begin to re-spin Earth. (The drive really is powerful enough to achieve this within a reasonable timescale, if only the planet's crust can withstand the seismic stresses without catastrophic earthquakes.) This will, he hopes, convert this frozen gas back to a breathable atmosphere.

The story has been included in a number of Niven anthologies (The Shape of Space, Inconstant Moon, and Convergent Series). Otherwise it seems only to have been included in the collection Alpha 8, edited by Robert Silverberg.

  • Thank you so much. It was the Alpha 8 Anthology that I read and I've already re-read this short story while waiting to have my Guest account merged with my official account. It brought me much joy.
    – Missourian
    Aug 18, 2022 at 19:31
  • Glad to help! @Missourian Aug 18, 2022 at 22:30

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