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In the beginning (teaser) of "Starship Mine" episode Geordi LaForge says, that Enterprise-D was travelling in warp twice as much as all other Federation ships. They've flown in warp, during five years, similar number of kilometres as all other ships would do during ten years.

How can this be true? Why Enterprise is so exceptional? It seems hard to me to belive, that Federation, having a large number of vessels, is focusing only on one ship and sends her to missions so often, that she takes 200% workload of all other "normal" Federation ships.

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    They need a navigator who can do the Kessel run in only 1.2 parsecs – Gaius Jan 23 '15 at 12:44
  • Out of universe tho' could be a reference to en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sea_Orbit – Gaius Jan 23 '15 at 12:46
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    Flagship, bro. Flagship. Flagshippin’ ain’t easy. – Paul D. Waite Jan 23 '15 at 12:55
  • I assume you aren't counting the time the Enterprise visited M33, or visited the Delta quadrant, etc.? – user11521 Jan 23 '15 at 18:41
  • @Michael I'm (presonally) counting nothing. I'm refering to Geordi LaForge's words only. – trejder Jan 23 '15 at 22:04
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Just for complete accuracy, here's the line (in context):

PICARD: Are we ready, Commander La Forge?

LAFORGE: Almost. I've requested two additional field diverters. One for the computer core and one for the Bridge. They haven't been installed yet.

PICARD: Additional units?

LAFORGE: Yes, sir. We've logged in five years more warp hours than most ships do in ten, so our baryon particle levels are high. I'm a little concerned that when the Remmler Array starts to sweep the ship it'll have to use a stronger beam than normal in order to get rid of all the radiation.

I feel like "most ships" is an important distinction here. The real question is "in what ways is the Enterprise D not most ships?" There's a few ways:

  • It was Galaxy Class, which at the time of TNG was the most advanced ship the Federation had ever built. Memory Beta cites the TNG technical manual which says that 6 were built initially, and then another 6 after Wolf 359. They were replaced by the Sovereign class (to which the Enterprise-E belongs) not much later.
  • It was the flagship of the Federation, and as such was probably frequently used for first contact ceremonies (like in Star Trek: Nemesis), treaty ceremonies, etc.
  • It had an "ongoing mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before." Most ships presumably had more specific missions: science vessels would be dedicated to a certain type of research, shorter range vessels would stay in a single area. In the new timeline, this sort of mission is apparently very specific, but I don't think it's made clear if that's true in the original timeline or at the time of TNG.

Again, because of the phrasing, what's necessary here isn't that the ship be at warp twice as much as all other Federation ships. Just most.

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    Memory Beta cites the TNG technical manual which says that 6 were built initially, and then another 6 after Wolf 359. It's possible that "Galaxy wings" were groups of ships each led by a Galaxy-class ship. – Plutor Jan 23 '15 at 15:05
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    Nothing wrong with the answer, but note that the quote only talks about "warp hours", not the warp factor. So wouldn't you think there are lot of cargo ships going back and forth on standard runs at low warp that spend almost all their time in warp? – ThePopMachine Jan 23 '15 at 15:30
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    @ThePopMachine "most ships" in the quote might refer to Starfleet vessels and not include most civilian traffic like cargo ships. – eques Jan 23 '15 at 15:35
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    Also, TNG era federation had industrial replicator technology. The idea of cargo ships for common supplies seems frankly obsolete. – user16696 Jan 23 '15 at 15:58
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    Good answer, but it should also mention that the average starship stayed relatively close to its assigned post, whereas the Enterprise and a few others were constantly zipping around the quadrant putting out brushfires or performing diplomatic functions. – Omegacron Jan 23 '15 at 18:06
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To add to the other answer, plot demands have taken a large toll on the Enterprise. The ship gets into alot of freaky and dangerous situations, due to its non routine mission. And at as the most advanced ship of the fleet, with the latest and best technology, it's the best equipped for defense and rescue missions. It has a large capacity for transport (transporter and refugee space). It has the fastest warp drive, so can respond sooner.

This said, Geordi says warp hours. This could be a 1:1 comparison of time & distance in warp, Like two random cars with a difference in mileage in the same time period. But this would not make too much sense considering that Warp is non linear in scale and fuel needs. The Enterprise, out of need and capability, likely travels at higher warp speed a higher percentage of the time. Like two similar cars, one pushed harder and longer than the other, will have different stress, fuel consumption, and emissions output.

A Ferrari driven at 60 mph will have a better mpg and a longer oil life, than the same Ferrari driven at 150 mph, even if total distance traveled is the same. In context of the show and Enterprise D service history, this is what Geordi was taking about.

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    I think this last point is important. The Enterprise always seems to be running high warp a lot. Ships just doing ferry runs or patrol aren't going be running warp 9.x to often. – draksia Jan 23 '15 at 16:43
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    @draksia No, it is not. Geordi say about warp hours, not travelled distance. So warp hours (twice as much as others) will remain constant, in context of this question, no matter, if they travelled it mostly in Warp 5 or in Warp 9. I think. – trejder Jan 23 '15 at 18:27
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    Is it possible that "warp hours" is being used in more of a maintenance kind of way? Perhaps "warp hours" actually means something like "the equivalent of hours at warp 4", or some other standard speed? Surely a ship that travels 100 hours at warp 9.2 is going to have accumulated a lot more stress than a ship that traveled 100 hours at warp 2. – Wayne Jan 23 '15 at 20:00
  • @Wayne: Probably, but the problem here is not mechanical stress; it is baryon particle accumulation. Who's to say that scales at all with warp factor? Maybe baryon particles literally leak onto the ship at a constant rate when the ship's surrounded by a warp field, regardless of travel speed. trejder appears more certain than I think the available evidence allows for, but he's right in that we don't have much grounds here to assume much beyond what's literally stated in the dialogue. Sadly. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 21 '16 at 23:14
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In the episode Tin Man, this exchange occured:

PICARD: So, old friend. How are you?

DESOTO [on viewscreen]: Well, you know, they send you Galaxy Class boys out here to the far reaches. Me, I'm just hauling my butt back and forth between starbases.

LaForge, as previously noted, said that the enterprise had logged more time in warp than "most ships." In all of TNG, the Enterprise encountered one other Galaxy class starship (the Yamato) which indicates that most ships are NOT Galaxy class.

It's possible that LaForge was assuming that the starbase had a standard that they used for all ships of all classes that didn't account for the actual distance they traveled or the length of their missions.

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In one of the episodes where they encountered the Traveler, they traveled to the edge of the universe. For reference, that's several billion of the distance Voyager had to travel. With that in mind, the D had probably not just traveled twice the distance of most Federation vessels, it's probably traveled twice that of all the other federation vessels combined.

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    It seems, that you're wrong. Look for the underlined part in original script cite in accepted answer and in my question again. We're talking about warp hours here, not distance in kilometers. When Traveler has sent Enterprise to the edge of Universe, they were not travelling in typical warp ("logged warp hours"), but in something different and strange. Typical warp travel wouldn't allow this kind of speeds and distances, so -- per context of this question, which is radiation generated by warp travels -- this travel doesn't seem to be fitting in. – trejder Jul 9 '15 at 7:43
  • @trejder: You have no idea whether that counted as warp, or whether baryon particle accumulation took place. No idea at all! – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 21 '16 at 23:17

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