There was a science fiction story that I read at some point (I can’t remember if it’s a self-contained story or part of a larger book) that’s centered around an ai in a spaceship that realizes it has no memory of what the ship is supposed to be doing. It figures out that it has a hull breach when robots is sends to a certain part of the ship keep on disappearing (by getting sucked into space). It eventually determines that it was hit by an asteroid, which destroyed the parts of it designed to detect damage from asteroids along with its memories.

There might be more to the story after that, but that’s all I can remember.

1 Answer 1


That sounds like the Grebulon ship from Douglas Adams' Mostly Harmless ("Part five of the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchikers trilogy.")

The Grebulon ship is damaged by something (presumably an asteroid,) leaving part of it open to space. Due to the damage, the computer controlling the ship is unable to detect the damage - it infers that the ship is open to space because the robots it sent to replace the memory units in that area all disappear.

Unfortunately, the spare memory unit was lost with the robots who went to install it. The memory unit contained a copy of the ship's programming and copies of the memories of all the Grebulons on board. The Grebulons were in some kind of suspended animation - preserved because the trip was planned to take a very long time.

Based on the fragmentary remains of the original (damaged) memory unit, the computer determines that they were sent to set up an observation post and observe something. The structure of the fragmentary records implies that the Grebulons are a scout force for an invasion force, but the computer doesn't recognize this.

The computer lands on the planet Rupert in our solar system and wakes the crew to have them set up an observation post and observe the activities of humans on the Earth.

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    Is "the planet Rupert" a typo, or was it made up for the story?
    – sueelleker
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 13:36
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    It's a fictional planet, in-universe officially dubbed Persephone but more commonly referred to by the nickname Rupert after a scientist's parrot.
    – IG_42
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 14:23
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    A quick search of h2g2 rupert finds h2g2.com/entry/A11146916 as the top entry: This is supposedly the Twin sister planet of earth, that orbits exactly the same orbit and round exactly the same sun (Sol) and is simply on the far side of the sun so we can't see it. Therefore it is quite likely it is mosty harmless too. Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 10:43
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    @PeterCordes That's not a particularly good reference - as far as I remember, the planet in the books isn't Earth's twin, just a distant 10th planet, out beyond Pluto (which hadn't yet been redesignated a "dwarf planet" when DNA wrote the book). Note also that "h2g2" is not a Hitch-Hikers fansite as such, it's a sort of encyclopedia project founded by Douglas Adams, run by the BBC for a while, and now seemingly rather in disrepair.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 12:45
  • @IMSoP: Yeah, that sounds more familiar than the h2g2 "article"; being very distant rather than in a mirror orbit. Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 20:13

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