A common event in the Aliens movie is people being placed in stasis for long periods of time, presumably because space travel is a slow and arduous process.

Given the vast distances between even the most remotely-interesting interstellar destinations make them many years away even at the speed of light, is there some form of faster-than-light travel that is utilized in the Aliens franchise?

  • There is some probably irreconcilable travel wankiness in the Alien universe. For example, Ripley, adrift in the escape pod between Alien and Aliens, according to Burke "That's the thing. You were out there for fifty-seven years. What happened was, you had drifted right through the core systems, and it's really just blind luck that a deep salvage team found you when they did. It's one in a thousand, really." How was this possible? Was she ejected at FTL velocity from the Nostromo? – Jason K May 20 '16 at 20:42
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    How has nobody pointed out the obvious of Ripley's daughter? If they did not have FTL then she would expect to never have seen her daughter again. That is clearly not the case. – Broklynite Sep 7 '16 at 23:35
up vote 55 down vote accepted

There is faster than light travel in the Aliens universe franchise. It is demonstrated by the relatively short time (3 weeks) it takes for the Marines to arrive at LV-426, Zeta 2 Reticuli system (second moon of Zeta 2 Reticuli IV).

  • This star system is 33 light years from Earth, so their ability to reach it in such a short time indicates a well developed FTL system, whose specifics are undefined. (Such information is not necessary to the story so it's overlooked.)

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Click to enlarge map of the Alien Universe.

  • On starships where travel between distant interstellar locations would take centuries due to slower-than-light travel, (i.e. generation-ships or anything made by humanity at our current state of technological development), it makes sense to put the crew into suspended animation since it will take thousands of years to reach their destination. Even our closest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, which is only four light years away would take 25,000 years at our best possible speeds!

  • The Aliens Universe possesses faster than light travel so their reasons for suspended animation are likely based around the second reason and equally important reason for suspended animation after time delay, the important issue of resource management.

  • Living, moving, active crew require food, oxygen and water to go about their business of being human. It would appear, travel between stars requires very little human interaction except the initiation of the process so it makes more sense to reduce the activity of the crew because it reduces their need for resources.

  • Physically, the suspended animation process seems to have no ill effects, (witness Ripley and Jonesy's decades-long sleep and revival) so it makes sense the humans of that universe would spend their time asleep to reduce the need for storage space for water, food and air as well as entertainment.

  • It is very likely they have technology to promote the efficient recycling of those resources, but since no replication technology appeared to be available, the easiest best way to have food on hand is to NOT eat it in the first place.

For those of you curious about the ships and technology of the Aliens Universe, The Alien Universe Timeline offers very interesting materials based on canonical resources.

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    I would also think a major issue is an extension of resource management idea. Lifespan of the crew. Not only would keep the crew awake "waste" food, air, and water, it also would have a significant impact on the lifespan of the crew. Say it takes 2-3 weeks to get from point to point, a round trip is about a month to a month and a half wasted. – erdiede Mar 18 '12 at 18:07
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    And now it isn't. – Thaddeus Howze Jan 28 '14 at 23:50
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    Faster-than-light is a, pardon the expression, relative term. Even at five times the speed of light, a 33 lightyear trip would still take over 6 1/2 years each way. Unless their FTL is hundreds of times faster than light some kind of hibernation would still be needed. – Joe L. Nov 19 '14 at 14:13
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    @Bardo - you are aware that we don't actually have stasis available as an option at the present moment in time? Let's wait until it's invented, and then see if it becomes preferable. – user8719 Jan 9 '15 at 13:45
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    "Modern day sailing have solved most of this problems" You must be joking. They do that by having a minimal crew - and not having the problem in the first place.... because somehow AIR is a non issue on a sailing ship, are a lot of other things. I would hadly call solving a non-existing item solving. – TomTom May 20 '16 at 9:02

I recall the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual introducing the concept of negative (or inverse?) time dilation for FTL travel.

That is, much as the journey-time experienced by the crew of a ship traveling close-to, but below the speed of light, is less than that experienced by a stationary observer, the crew on a FTL journey would experience a longer journey than perceived by a stationary observer.

So, in the three week journey to LV-426 above, the crew would have experienced a considerably longer travel time, and therefore required cold-sleep to avoid wasting a large portion of their lifespan on travel.

  • Except there's no such thing as stationary. While the ship is moving at near-light-speeds relative to you, you would observe time passing more slowly for those on board - but at the same time, they would observe time passing more slowly for you. This apparent paradox (it's not really one) is only resolved when one of the two frames of reference accelerates to match the other one. The idea of it being reversed by actual FTL travel is interesting but not based on any logical extrapolation of the way it worked. – Mark Reed Feb 27 '17 at 0:33

In Alien 3 when the warden was telling his prisoners (rumor-control was how he put it, IIRC) that Ripley had crash landed on the penal colony he said a ship had been sent to pick her up- I don't remember the ship's exact eta but I seem to recall it would get there in weeks- so unless it came from somewhere in the same solar system it probably would need some form of FTL to reach the colony in that span of time.

  • Or maybe the penal colony was closely orbiting a black hole and the gravity well was causing time dilation there, so their apparent wait was only 3 weeks but it took hundreds of years in Earth time. – Scott Whitlock Sep 7 '16 at 16:19

For the USS Sulaco to have gone from Earth (Sol System) to LV-426 (Zeta 2 Reticuli) they would have had to been traveling at 13 times the speed of light. Since they got there in 3 weeks and Zeta 2 Reticuli is approximately 39 light years away.

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    39 years have ~2035 weeks. so about 678c, not 13. – ths Sep 7 '16 at 8:11
  • What is "c" in the context that ths used it? Because to me it looks like Sc-Fi lover is right, and what would 678c be? Just curious. – All I got are questions Sep 7 '16 at 23:24
  • @AllIgotarequestions "c" generally denotes the speed of light. Also, if you want to reply to somebody's comment on your post, please use a comment (or edit your post) rather than posting a new answer. You might like to take our tour to find out how questions and answers work here. – Rand al'Thor Sep 8 '16 at 0:53

So do they have some kind of warp drive or are they generating their own wormholes or what because nothing can stop time dilation. Think about it if they have the ability to move hundreds of times faster than the speed of light whether it be using warp drive so that they can see where their going and stop, change direction etc. or generating wormholes and there by entering "The Bulk" (The 5th Dimension) were they wouldn't be able to maneuver because our 3 dimensional controls wouldn't work in the 5th dimension (Because we live in the 4th dimension - Length, Width, Depth, Time) so they would essentially be leaving our universe. I find it more likely that they just use warp drive (Star Trek) or some other means of travel. But if they were using a different means of travel what would it be, that wouldn't cause time dilation. Because warp drive or wormholes wouldn't interfere with our timeline you would enter at 1:00 PM and exit at 2:00 AM and it would be the same on your clock as well as everybody else clock who hadn't been exposed.

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    I have read this answer several times, and if it is an attempt to answer the question (Is there FTL travel in the Aliens franchise), I can't tell if it is "Yes" or "No". – Blackwood Sep 7 '16 at 1:39
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    Hi Sci-Fi lover. Welcome to scifi.stackexchange. You bring up some good observations in your comments. If you are proposing this as a answer, it would probably help to format your response into a formal answer. In this case the questioner is seeking a concrete answer to the question, "is there some form of FTL travel...". You have actually posed more questions back. While that can work in in some contexts, the goal here is to post an answer along with supporting information/qualifiers. – beichst Sep 7 '16 at 1:42

protected by Adamant Sep 7 '16 at 23:27

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