Generation Ships are large, self-sustaining environment ships which allow for very slow interstellar travel at sub-light speed.
Around 70,000 of these ships left the Earth between in 2097 and 2200 and they were sent for several decades. Shortly into the 23rd century, hyperspace technology became available and thus Generation Ships became unnecessary. There are known colonies set up by the inhabitants of the Generation Ships outside of the human bubble.
Near the end of the 21st century, many thousands of generation ships left Earth, but it seems the process of launching them on their way was not particularly well regulated; many were not as well prepared as they should have been. In those days when faster-than-light communication didn’t exist, many of these potential settlers faced terrible risks alone, travelling thousands of light years into the void, not unlike the wagon trains that set out across continental US in the 18th and 19th centuries before them. Records indicate that up to 70,000 such ships were launched.
Some were successful at founding new worlds. Most were not. Some, reportedly, even managed to return with tales of their adventures.
Many were lost in deep space, the dead hulk of their ship carrying on an almost endless trajectory ever deeper into space. Others managed to land and survived for many decades before being overtaken by some local disaster.
Some may still be alive, just restricted to low power light speed communications, or no communications at all, as their equipment has failed over the centuries in between. We say they have disappeared without trace, but just maybe some will find some traces of them that are still out there.
Some are into their 30th generation. Those that are still enroute are travelling in ‘normal’ space, at relativistic velocities.
Collectively these travelers are known as The Missing.
Where Are They Now? Edit
Due to the relativistic speeds, time aboard the Generation ships will have been compressed for the occupants. A further observation results in the conclusion that many of the ships should be reaching their destinations around about now if you assume they were targeted at stars within 100 light-years (which seems plausible for 21st-24th century technology). The maximum distance they could realistically travel would be around a 1,000 light-years (probably much less), so both the ships and the civilization that emerged, if any did make it, should be easily reachable by today’s explorers.
On April 23rd 3303, the first Generation Ship was discovered lost deep in the Alaunus system, called the Lycaon. Studies of the craft, along with audio and text logs pulled from the vessel indicate that the crew perished as the result of a contagion originating from a asteroid sample taken during their voyage.
Since this initial discovery, several other lost Generation Ships have been located: