Due to the need of capturing and using a possibly sentient creature (the tardigrade) along with the detrimental side effects to the tardigrade. Or the need to genetically alter a crew member to properly navigate the mycelial plane along with evidence that using the Spore Drive can and will cause harm to the mycelial network to the detriment of all life in the known universe has led to the Federation to place a temporary ban on all research and development of the Spore Drive.
The Displacement-activated spore hub drive, most often called the Spore Drive was under development by Starfleet in the 2250’s. The research in and development of the Spore Drive was conducted by two research teams, one led by Straal the Chief Engineer of The USS Glenn and the other led by Paul Stamets The Chief Engineer of the USS Discovery. Both ships were of the Crossfield class and had been modified to utilize the Spore Drive.
The Spore Drive made use of the mycelial network that was made up of the mycelium (roots) of the fungus prototaxites stellaviatori that existed in a discrete subspace domain. This domain was often called the Mycelial Plane. Research conducted on the Discovery found pockets of negative mass on the mycelial network indicating that the network not only spanned the known universe but also interacted with parallel universes.
At first jumps using the Spore Drive was limited to only a few hundred kilometers. The reason for this is that Starfleet ships of this time lacked the computational power to properly map out all the possible outcomes of jumps longer that several hundred kilometers leading to navigational instability.
In 2256 the USS Glenn was able to make a breakthrough in Spore Drive Technology that led to a jump that lasted 1.3 seconds and covered ninety light years. Shortly after this the Glen made a jump that ended in disaster. The ship hit an undetectable Hawking Radiation Firewall while exiting the mycelial plane resulting in the crew suffering “Spin out” resulting in the death of the crew and left the bodies twisted and deformed.
When an away team from the Discovery boarded the Glenn to investigate the cause of the accident they found that a large animal was roaming the corridors of the ship. Due to sharing several traits with tardigrades of Earth the animal was informal referred to as a tardigrade. It would later be named Ripper by the crew of the Discovery. Prior to scuttling the Glenn Ripper and data on modifications made to the Spore Drive were transferred to the Discovery.
After some examination of Ripper, it was found that the creature was able to travel the mycelial network and cover interstellar distances in search of its food source namely the spores of the prototaxites stellaviatori fungus. Eventually a way was found to tie Ripper into the ships navigational computer allowing the ship to make successful jumps similar to the ones made by the Glenn prior to its accident.
During examination of the tardigrade found evidence of the possibility that the creature was sentient Over time the forced navigation of the mycelial plane caused damage to the creature’s frontal lobe and eventually resulted in it entering a cryptobiosis state. In this state the creatures body expelled all but one percent of its water and its life signs slowed to the point they were almost undetectable. After this Lieutenant Stamets injected himself with a sample of tardigrade DNA allowing him to take on the role of organic navigational computer. This action was not without side effects Stamets soon found that his consciousness was existing outside the normal flow of time and even was able to glimpse flashes of a parallel universe. It soon came to light that Stamets was also suffering damage to his brain.
Eventually use of the spore drive was discontinued do the dangerous effects it had on anyone or anything acting as the organic navigational computer. Also, research showed that if used as a source of power for a ship in the form of a mycelial reactor could lead to damage to the mycelial network resulting the destruction of all life in the universe.
Spore Drive Operation
To operate the Spore Drive, the ship would enter into Black Alert. The organism serving as the Organic Navigational Computer, or ONC, would enter the spore chamber located in main engineering. A Canister of spores would then me manually inserted into the spore injector and the spores would be injected into the chamber where the ONC would ingest them allowing the ONC to navigate the mycelial network to the desired destination. While this was occurring the upper surface of the inner and outer rings of would begin to rotate in opposite directions to initiate excess energy cavitation.
When the Spore Drive as ready the ship would jump. An outside observer would see the jumping ship rotate around the fore to aft axis before and moving in a downward direction in relation to the ships orientation as it entered the mycelial plane. When exiting the mycelial network at the target destination this downward motion is also observed.
There had been on official stance on the use of the Spore Drive by Bravo Fleet. The temporary ban on Spore Drive R&D mentioned at the start of this article is there to give and in universe explanation of why we have not seen such a promising technology in any series that is set after the events of Discovery.
While both ships of the Crossfield class seen so far have both been equipped with the Spore Drive both were part of the Spore Drive Development Project any other Crossfield Class ships would not be so equipped.
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