There were three major waves of settlement ships from Earth into the greater galaxy. The current use of Transmission propulsion to cross distances faster than light is sometimes nicknamed "the fourth wave."
First Wave: Generational Ships of Industrial Earth Edit
Following the 1962 Moon landings and the subsequent onward voyages to Mars a mere decade later, the plan for a series of extrasolar missions was put together. Composed of a crew carefully vetted and psychologically prepared for a one-way journey to another star, and assisted by rapid advances in robotics and industrial manufacturing, Exodus 1 was the first in a series of settlement ships to depart Earth for planets new during the late 1970s. These ships were slow movers at first but could build up remarkable speed once they left the system. Their crews knew they would never see the destination; that it would be their descendants who would live to settle their destinations.
Far more ships departed Earth in those few years than was made known to the general populace. The exact number remains uncertain to this day, but there are dozens of populated worlds with the solid, industrial hallmarks of a First Wave settlement ship.
First Wave planets were the most separated from one another of all the settlement eras, and for the longest. No reliable methods of contacting other worlds existed, aside from the occasional breakthrough many years down the line. Ansible technology (i.e. instant communication via quantum entanglement) was not developed until after the Second Wave, and not widely distributed for even longer after that. This has left these worlds as the least homogenous of the settlement eras, having developed in different directions (both aboard ship and after planetfall) for so long.
Technological advantages of First Wave worlds usually include robust manufacturing and chemistry, advanced robotics and supremely efficient recycling methods, reflecting the technologies that went into sustaining their forebears on the long journey to their new home. Their initial settlement methods relied primarily on the classic domed habitat.
Second Wave: Sleeper Ships of Electronic Earth Edit
Decades passed after the First Wave as humanity's population continued to grow at an ever-accelerating rate. The Solar System became more populous, and even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn saw settlement. Despite these settlements, population growth on United Earth was becoming more and more of a problem.
A migration campaign was begun, offering great incentives to those who opted for a journey out of the System. A hefty advertising and information campaign, bordering on overt propaganda, spread romanticised memories of the First Wave while stressing how much easier modern technology would make everything. By this time, reliable cold sleep had been developed, allowing a crew to reach the destination without living out their lives aboard ship, and improved propulsion technologies cut a great deal of time off the projected travel times. Some Second Wave ships were even predicted to make planetfall while the longest-range First Wavers were still in transit.
The long-term planning efforts for the Second Wave and the sheer number of ships dwarfed the First Wave. Hundreds of prospective worlds were selected for settlement, with terraforming drone ships sent out several years in advance of the settlers. More drones were sent out than planets were settled, and to this day there are still occasional Earth-like worlds being rediscovered from this wave of terraforming.
Almost all of the planets in the Accord of New Worlds are Second Wave, with the capital world of Concordia being the very archetype of a bustling, technologically-focused Second Wave planet.
Settled from an Earth in the heights of an electronic and computing age, the worlds of the Second Wave tend to reflect this in their basic technological strengths: cybernetic augmentation, extremely high-grade computing, ansible networking and more.
Third Wave: Lightspeed Ships of Biotech Earth Edit
- Sleeper tech still needed as lightspeed travel puts immense strain on the body
- Ansible tech exists by now, allowing some of the ships to remain networked
- This wave left Earth during global calamities and the evacuation was rushed at best, leading to haphazard destination planning and a need for biotech adaptation of the species on the far end
- Tech strengths include biomanipulation of all forms, easy adaptation to new environments
- Settlement primarily by changing selves to fit environment
"Fourth Wave:" Signal Ships of the Reconnected Worlds Edit
- The technologies and cultures of the former eras of settlement are now beginning to melt together
- FTL exists in the form of the Signal-manipulating art of Transmission
- Ships are finally starting to try to get back in touch with Earth, after a couple of centuries separated; only problem is that Earth (and the rest of the Solar system) is just ... missing