In Lay Down Your Burdens (Part 1) (episode 19 of season 2 of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica), the rescue mission to Caprica loses one Raptor during their final jump. On checking the coordinates, Helo determines that they "jumped into the mountain".

Now this could be understood as they did not stop their FTL drive soon enough and crashed into the mountain at very high speed. If that is the case, then never mind, my upcoming question is moot.

However, to me it feels like Helo means the spaceship is now inside the mountain because their final coordinates where inside it. That confused me because from how I understand it, FTL is in fact a very, very fast way of conventional traveling by moving from A to B. Is there a FTL version that works differently by instantly moving something to B without traveling along they way from A? Or less specifically — what exactly happened to that Raptor?

  • Assuming an FTL that would move the ship into a differnt space where small movement could be mapped to large distances in the normal space then yes, but never came across refrence for this type being used.
    – jimjim
    Aug 28, 2011 at 11:04
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    Generally speaking, "FTL" is used to mean that the travel results in a greater distance between start and end in normal space than would have been possible at sub-light speeds. That doesn't necessarily mean that the object must physically travel the intervening distance. A portal between two distant points which one could walk across would also constitute FTL, as would teleportation.
    – Asmor
    Aug 29, 2011 at 20:55
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    Various "jump" types drives are to be found throughout SF, and there are a variety of--usually fatal--consequences for landing coincident with an existing mass. Jan 14, 2012 at 4:21
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    Doesn't a ship jumping into a mountain suggest that their FTL travel is not simply moving really fast?
    – Misha R
    Jan 5, 2015 at 0:50
  • Just to clarify on point 1, there was another episode where they jumped too near to a planet and then gravity was sucking them in. Now in the above mentioned episode, the reason they had to appear below radar was to avoid detection hence they jumped very close to the surface. But for the one unlucky Raptor, their coordinate happens to have a mountain on it (since their jump was plotted very near to Caprica's surface) so they ended up "jumping" into a mountain. Which leads to point 2, they probably got crushed in the mountain, or like the others said, fused into the mountain.
    – user45400
    May 7, 2015 at 20:12

5 Answers 5


I don't think it was ever specifically mentioned in the series (the writers made a point of making all the technology appear mundane to the characters - much as how we view jet engines and mobile phones these days - so they never need to have a conversation which 'showcases' the FTL).

However, watching the sequences where FTL is used makes it apparent that it is an instantaneous jump rather than some kind of hyper-velocity propulsion. The BSG wiki goes so far as saying that FTL travel is sometimes called "jumping" - in fact, I remember them describing the Pegasus' escape from the shipyards as using a 'blind jump', which the characters emphasis as an extremely risky undertaking.

Anyway - since FTL travel is instantaneous, it is entirely conceivable that a navigation error can land you inside a mountain (or a sun, or even inside another ship). The next question is - how would a transponder be intact enough to keep transmitting through the rock?

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    +1 The descriptions in the series seemed pretty clear to me - the "jump" mechanism results in a shift from point A to point B without ever occupying any of the loci in between.
    – Bevan
    Aug 29, 2011 at 1:51
  • If we suppose that the transponder is incredibly small - say, the say of a dust mite, and with multiple redundancy, it's not hard to believe that it jumped into a void in the rock. Aug 29, 2011 at 19:45
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    I was under assumption that when they appeared inside the mountain their arrival would have vaporized all of the rock inside the jump "flash", so they where trapped inside of a bubble inside the mountain (I also assumed they maintain momentum through a jump so as soon as they appeared they rammed the wall just outside of the flash. Aug 30, 2011 at 19:19
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    I don't know about the conservation of momentum - when Galactica jumped from its freefall at New Caprica, it appeared stationary after the jump. I guess the vaporising could make sense - but I always imagined a kind of re-phasing and integration... It's okay doing this in space, because it's mostly empty.
    – HorusKol
    Aug 30, 2011 at 23:10
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    @Vaughn FTL in BSG is an instantaneous teleportation system. It has a theoretically infinite range, HOWEVER with the Galactica's sensors, only jumps out to a certain distance (known as the "red line) can be plotted with certainty. Her computers can only do so much to prdict the current position of stuff at the destination (stellar drift and whatnot). The Cylons had more complex and robust computational capabilities, and thus a longer range//more distant red line.
    – acolyte
    Jul 18, 2013 at 15:02

According to the "FTL" article on the BSG wiki provided by HorusKol it is speculated that the FTL "Jump" drives in Battlestar Galactica

"fold" space, reducing the distance between any two points by creating a "corridor" through space that links them together (essentially forming a wormhole, or Einstein-Rosen Bridge).

In this case the Raptor that jumped into the mountain would have done so by literally entering the mountain, rather than crashing into it or through it.


Let's combine some answers here with context from the show:

I recall a pilot reacting grimly to that information- we can assume it's not pleasant.

when the galactica jumps out of atmosphere, it leaves a void- lets assume a ship jumping into a solid surface will force enough space for itself- as raptors jumping into atmosphere create a sonic boom as they displace air. This accounts for the transponder still working.

Exit velocity must be programmable for a jump- going from orbit to a planet could give you a relative speed many times the speed of sound,

So, the raptor jumps into a mountain, and stops instantly as it is surrounded by rock. The pilots are violently thrown forward, being killed upon impact with the interior. Hence the unhappy faces.


I had envisioned the jump drive as a mechanism that folds normal space-time so that point A (original coordinates) and B (target coordinates) overlap. Once the engines have folded space, the ship can somehow pass through and "appear" at point B instantly.

I am not sure of the implications this theory would have on jumping into coordinates already occupied by a solid object. Taking from the episode with the free falling Galactica whereby a vacuum was created when the ship jumped out of the atmosphere, I would imagine that a ship would simply displace matter surrounding the target coordinates. In the case of the raptor, it would simply displace mountain or get crushed in the process.

  • I'm not sure that this answer offers any extra insight over and above previous answers and comments.
    – HorusKol
    Jan 14, 2012 at 4:47

Seems to me you'd only displace matter if you could do it normally. For example air or water. If you jump into solid rock, you aren't going to displace it you're going to be crushed by it.

  • Not so much crushed by it, as ... sort of fused with it. You materialize in the same physical space, and your molecules would simply overlap with the molecules of the rock. Remember that in reality, no matter how solid it feels, most matter is essentially empty space.
    – eidylon
    Jun 18, 2014 at 22:02

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