An Explorer ship can expect to be out of touch for more than two years at a stretch with only the most infrequent contact with other Explorers or with urgent messages delivered by fast-transfer Wormhole-capable ships. Due to the distances involved, direct EM transmission is simply not practical. Longer periods of time with no contact are known but are advised against as it is deleterious to morale though some Explorer Commanders believe that reminding the crew of their home is bad enough for morale.
Life within Explorer ships could be said to be comfortable but functional. Every inch of space is used to good effect and considering their mission brief it isn’t any wonder that the designers had Environmental Engineers working around the clock to make sure there was nothing wrong with the decor. Previous longhaul missions in space had some unfortunate incidents with some individuals who became fixated on small aspects of life aboard a spacecraft. Needless to say all crew are carefully screened for any hints of psychosis and those individuals who would be seen as a liability are removed from the program.
Each crew member has a separate room and is allowed to decorate it at will. They are given a cargo allowance and depending on rank may keep items in their room or in storage. They are also kitted out with a number of uniforms and a laundry/repair allowance which they use for repair or replacement of uniforms and personal equipment – constant abuse of resources is an offence itself. A crew member’s equipment and belongings are their own responsibility.
Standard Uniform is a coloured two-piece garment consisting of cargo pants and tunic, colour depending on what detachment in the military and a utility belt which carries most job-specific equipment. Some, like engineers have an additional shoulder holster and some, like scientists and other civilians wear their own clothes covered by laboratory coats for protection. The overall is functional and comfortable consisting of a waterproof durable weave padded for ease of movement and warmth. It attaches with tough Velcro-type straps providing an almost sealed system when attached correctly. It can be used for brief periods as an emergency space suit providing the helmet and life-support attachment is used.
Contrary to most thoughts on the subject, personnel aboard a starcraft do not carry personal sidearms as a matter of course. Each sidearm is carefully coded and restricted by the Internal Security Department. Other weapons such as knives and clubs are catalogued though usually their owner is permitted to retain them unless the Security Officer believes they pose a threat to craft systems or personnel.
Most people do tend to wear their work clothes when not working mainly because being so far away from the centre of things means that notions such as keeping up with fashion become more and more unlikely. The uniforms are designed for utility and comfort so there is no hardship. Rather traditional wear has become the norm and some members of the crew bring along memorabilia of their homes which leads to certain stereotypes of Scotsmen wearing kilts and the like.
All work and no play makes Jack or Jill an unhappy crew person. To this end the Environmental Architects have provided the modern Explorer ships with a certain amount of recreational space and materials which allow most crew members to partake in constructive hobbies and the library resources permit further study and education on subjects both career enhancing and purely leisurely. They even went so far as to have Leisure Counsellors who are present to help you use your time constructively. Although a certain amount of time for personal needs is permitted, Counsellors are trained to watch for crew members who seem to be spending too much time on one subject or by themselves. Though by this they may seem to be a sort of Thought Police it must be understood (and seldom is) that their job is to make sure that everyone stays quite content as accounts of individuals going ‘Space Crazy’ are not as fictional as one would hope.
As often as possible the Leisure Counsellors obtain the latest releases in media culture and entertainment for carefully controlled showings during the next period of time without contact. At this time they also collect and deliver messages which keep the contact between crew and families running even out on the Frontier. Along with mission and situation reports, Explorer craft trade entertainment media and other distractions when they meet.
Standard craft systems are augmented by virtual overlays where the computer places a holographic equivalent of the terminal in realspace. A sensornet detects disruptions in the hologram and relays these disturbances to the terminal. It is important to note that this is only used for the very basic and simple instruction sets as certain duties such as those involved with piloting and navigation have specialised equipment that is not usually configurable (for security more than anything else) from any other workstation.
Each ship would usually have about four galleys, each with differing menus for the day permitting a huge permutation of foods though they have yet to eliminate the problem of the foods tasting like they have been in storage for several months. They say it is possible to spend the entire mission on an Explorer ship and never eat the same food twice but that is a little bit of an exaggeration. The cooks do well but they can only do as well as anyone else and on especially long missions without resupply the crew can be seen tucking into reconstituted powdered rations. Yum yum. Explorers do not have the room for Hydroponics or live gardens.
Life aboard an Explorer craft is not unpleasant though it is demanding. The people on board are highly motivated, enthused by their role and the missions and generally well-disposed to other members of the crew. Personality defects on longhaul missions could be fatal and a rigorous examination of an individual’s character and past performance is performed by Experts before they are even considered for a mission. The craft is equipped with chemical means of controlling aberrant behaviour though long term use is a repugnant concept to Human Unity physicians.
The Captain of an Explorer vessel is always an Expert. It will have the support and backup of an executive team consisting of Experts and natural humans who implement the decisions made. In the event of irreparable damage to the Captain, another Expert can assume the role with full access to the data banks. The other Experts will have different duties depending on their specialisations and they work alongside their natural human colleagues.
An Explorer craft is best described as a small community. With seldom more than 200 natural humans and perhaps ten Experts, it is important that everyone get along and the crew, including the Experts, have likely been co-habiting for nearly a year before they leave Earth. This acclimatisation, added to the professionalism of the crews, is thought to be enough to detect any social issues. Individuals are encouraged to socialise outside of their work areas so a crew member might find his schedule updated with events he can attend or simply subscribe remotely which would take him far from his traditional comfort zone. His responses to these invites are monitored but rarely acted upon. A planetologist may find he has very little in common with the External Threat Teams and there is no assumption that any individuals and groups will become friends, but making them more than statistics is important to the smooth running of an Explorer.
Crews are made up of elite personnel, culled from the millions of applicants to the Exploratory Division. They must be capable of independent thought and action, able to make decisions which will properly represent the principles of Human Unity. This delegation of responsibility decreases as the ranks are traversed but then the individual crewmember has a lot of decision-making power about his specialist area. The Executive team along with the Captain Expert is responsible for making Human Unity policy on the spot which may be difficult if there is a Disruptive Element (also known as an Outside Context Problem). This may be something that shatters the previously held world views – an example would be the ability of an alien species to interbreed with humanity or the power to create personal wormholes with man-portable technology. These would cause immense changes in society and raise alarming questions. An Explorer executive team is therefore required to be imaginative yet consistent. The level of competence required and the trust place in Explorer crews is much greater than any precedents.