How to Pilot a Starship

Drive It With Your Brain

Cosmic brainpower.
Cosmic brainpower.
Jumpstart Studios/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Still can't figure out how to pilot that ill-gotten starship? Well, the problem might just boil down to insufficient brainpower. See, some vessels require more than lightning-fast reflexes and a knack for sophisticated gadgetry. In order to drive a Guild heighliner -- and do so without crashing into a sun -- you'll need a mutated brain that can glimpse the future.

That's how the Spacing Guild in Frank Herbert's "Dune" avoids the many dangers of interstellar travel. The ability comes with a price, however, as it leaves them grotesquely addicted to the drug Melange, which gives the gift of precognition. A guild navigator essentially peers into the future enough to spot impending space travel disasters and slalom around them like flagpoles on a ski slope. With a ban on "thinking machines" in full effect, drug-infused precognizant mutants are pretty much the only way to navigate the "Dune" universe.

The pilots of Orson Scott Card's "The Worthing Saga" also benefit from psychic powers, using telepathy to outwit enemies during space battles. Imperial navigation in the "Warhammer 40K" universe would be impossible without the sacrifice of psychic astropaths.

Living, organic ships present their own unique piloting and navigation hurdles. The sentient Voidhawks of Peter F. Hamilton's "The Night's Dawn Trilogy" share a psychic bond with their human captains from birth. The Leviathan ships in "Farscape" depend on a similar arrangement, forming a symbiotic relationship with a special alien pilot species.

Even if you possess the necessary psychic powers, many of these vessels are huge commitments. Your pilot duties might mutate you into a giant tadpole or merely bury you inside the ship's belly for the rest of your life. Maybe you should start with a used X-wing instead?