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I am searching for a story and its author from the 1960s about an ark spaceship that has been traveling space in search of a new planet. The hero tends the onboard forest which produces oxygen for the travelers. Although he is more intelligent than his peers, as a young person he was passed over for leadership training because of his individualistic nature.

There are off-limit corridors which lead to air locks and hatches which open to the outside of the spaceship and rumors persist of those who have ventured to these hatches illegally only never to be seen again. The hero finally has had enough and attempts to end his life in one of these hatches. When he opens it, air rushes in and he falls into lush vegetation.

As he walks around the spaceship he encounters the other "Runners" and comes upon the observation and control deck of the ship. He sees his childhood friends who had become its leaders peering out at the outside. He realizes that all of them had been imprisoned for their own protection's sake and never to be allowed to be released into the new world that had actually been found decades or centuries before.

2 Answers 2

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"The Wind Blows Free", a novelette by Chad Oliver, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1957, available at the Internet Archive. Ypu may have read it in one of these compilations.

The hero, Samuel Kingsley, works in the hydroponics chamber of a space ark:

He was assigned work in the main hydroponics chamber, and he learned his job dutifully. He forced himself to be interested in the growing plants and in the chemical sea in which they grew. He regulated the sun lamps and adjusted the chemical flows with precision. He grew to like the fresh air of the chamber and looked forward to going to work every morning. At least, the hydroponics chamber was green, it was alive. The dead air piped in from the rest of' the Ship depressed him, and going home at night was not pleasant.

In trouble with the authorities and on the run, Sam desperately considers ending it all by going Outside:

He forced himself to walk up to the airlock door. He reached out and touched it. It felt icy, or was that just his imagination?

He wasn't thinking; he was beyond that. He only knew that the Ship and everything in it had become horrible to him, unbearable. Maybe there was a workable spacesuit inside the lock, maybe he could go Outside and drift forever among the stars. . . .

It would be a cleaner death than the thing that waited for him at the other end of the tunnel.

Sam goes out the airlock and finds himself on a planet:

There was the Ship, there was his world: buried beneath the decay and the growth of centuries.

The Ship had landed; that was obvious enough. It had touched down long ago, generations ago. It had found the world it had sought, the world that might give his people another chance.

The great journey had ended hundreds of years ago.

And the passengers?

They had stayed in the Ship.

They had been afraid to come out.

They had built their little safe sterile society in their metal tube of a world, and they had been afraid to start again. They remembered what had happened on Earth; they were never allowed to forget.

Sam finds others who left the Ship before him:

He saw the men, three of them, standing around the fire. Big men, men his own size, their muscles as golden as the sun in the sky. They saw him, smiled at him, waved to him.

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It might be "Non-stop"(1959) by Brian Aldiss or "Universe" (1941) by Robert Heinlein

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    That's two answers. Please post them separately so they may be accepted separately. Also, please give more detail.
    – Chenmunka
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:29
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    – Community Bot
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:29
  • Can you quote a passage from either work describing the protagonist viewing the long-landed generation ship? Dec 30, 2023 at 20:59

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