Created By: JonnyB on June 25, 2011 Last Edited By: JonnyB on June 28, 2011
Troped

Space Mines

Like their seagoing counterparts, but IN SPAAAAACE!!!

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Space is, of course, an ocean. And sometimes your Space Navy needs to block access to a port, a space lane, or even an entire planet. How to do this? Why, Space Mines, of course. These are like their seagoing counterparts, but IN SPAAAAACE!!!

Just like there are several types of Sea Mines, so there are also many types of Space Mines. Most common are proximity mines, that go off when a ship gets too near, and contact mines that go off when they hit a ship's hull. Magnetic mines are attracted to metal hulls. Homing mines will home in on a ship's engine or weapon energy signature. Some mines are miniature weapons platforms that open fire when ships get too close. Remote-detonated mines can be set off by a waiting vessel when a target ship gets in range. Nuclear mines have nuclear warheads in them. Then there are mines that rob ships of power (dampening fields) instead of just exploding. There are many other variations and combinations.

Not to be confused with Space Mining operations, mining valuable materials from asteroids or other planets IN SPACE!.


Examples :

Anime and Manga
  • There are massive space minefields around the Men's Planet (Tarak) that is visited towards the end of Vandread (second season). They are used to reveal First Mate BC as The Mole, since s/he knows the friend-foe codes of the mines that allow Nirvana to pass them.
  • Mines are used in multiple battles in Legend Of The Galactic Heroes.

Film
  • Galaxy Quest, the Tothian mine field.
    Cmdr Taggart: And what you fail to realize is my ship is dragging mines!

Literature
  • Stewart Cowley's Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 A.D.. During the war with Proxima Centauri, the perimeter of Earth's solar system was seeded with nuclear mines. They would home in on the warp generators of arriving enemy ships and destroy them while they were recharging their power banks after the warp jump.
  • Honorverse has this; it gets around SpaceIsBig by having the mines basically be the same 10,000-kilometer-range laser warheads found on their missiles.

Live-Action TV
  • In the pilot of the original Battlestar Galactica, the Galactica must pass through a narrow region of space in a dense nebula that has been mined by the Cylons.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Matters of Honor", we see a Centauri minefield deployed to interdict access to a planet. This minefield actually consists of orbiting weapon platforms that fire on intruding starships instead of merely exploding when they get within range.
    • Captain Sheridan also used nuclear warheads as mines on at least two occasions, but these were remotely detonated from a starship when enemy vessels were deemed close enough.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror". The Romulan ship uses one of its self destruct devices as an impromptu mine in an attempt to destroy the Enterprise.
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In The Kobayashi Maru scenario that starts off the movie, the ship the Enterprise needs to rescue was disabled by a gravitic mine.
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, during the Dominion Wars the Defiant mined the entrance to the Bajoran wormhole.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise, the Enterprise runs into a cloaked field of Romulan mines.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine also has the Klingons establishing an illegal cloaked minefield in "Sons of Mogh." The mines are dormant and have to be remotely activated in event of war-- and would effectively cut DS9 and Bajor off from support from elsewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. More on Star Trek mines here.
      • Fridge Logic: FWIW the Klingon mines make no sense, since they'd have to mine space three-dimensionally - which they don't - in order to be effective, which would literally take hundreds of years to do even at like 15 seconds a mine. (They don't just mine around Bajor, they mine around the entire Bajoran system.)
      • This is true of most examples of this. The other DS9 example is actually pretty rare in its making-sense-ness.
      • Perhaps what they call "mines" are really dormant warp-capable drones which are activated by anything in their sensor range, which could be a significant fraction of a lightyear, which would allow only a few of them to cover a three-dimensional hollow sheathe around the Bajoran system.
  • The Stargate SG-1 episode "The Serpent's Venom" takes place in a space minefield where the mines all lock onto any sign of weapons, which is used by the Go'a'uld as a neutral meeting place. SG-1 has to reprogram a mine to attack one of the Go'a'uld ships at the meeting, in order to instigate a conflict.

Tabletop Games
  • Star Fleet Battles. Ships can "roll a mine out a hatch" and leave it to blow up a ship pursuing them. Mines can be set to accept only certain sizes of ships as targets. Major space installations often had minefield belts protecting them. Some of the mine types available:
    • The Romulans have a Nuclear Space Mine based on the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".
    • Command mines can be ordered to detonate or to activate/deactivate themselves.
    • Chained mines detonate when other mines explode.
    • Transporter bombs can be beamed into position.
    • Captor mines can fire weapons at targets.

Video Games
  • Halo: First Strike has Moray Space Mines.
  • Wing Commander has Porcupine Space Mines.
  • The Babylon Project: In three levels of the Earth-Brakiri War, you have to navigate through a Centauri minefield. Unlike traditional contact or proximity mines, these mines shoot at you (see the Babylon 5 example above).
  • There's an online Flash game called Space Minefield.
    • Also one called Space Mines.
    • And a company called Cogmed created a flash game called Space Mine Patrol to demonstrate working memory.
  • Space mines appear often in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, both in novels and in the games. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Space_mine
    • Both the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games feature mines that shoot at you, rather than exploding. Most of the missions that feature these tend to be quite difficult.
  • Star Fox 64: The first few seconds of Sector X has a cloud of mines you have to go through.
  • Homeworld has Minelaying Corvettes. The mines themselves are proximity-triggered homing mines, solving the problem of mining in 3D space.
  • Elite 2: Frontier and Elite 3: Frontier First Encounters space-sim video games let you deploy these mines... or be blown to bits with them. Honestly, these mines are uneffective.

Real Life

While most science fiction applications of Space Mines are ridiculous in practical application (see the fridge logic page), it might be feasible to set up Space Mines in certain high-traffic orbitals, e.g. geosynchronous orbit. Other targets would be those used in an orbital insertion after launch from a major ground-based spaceport. You could also position them at Lagrange points due to their use in the Interplanetary Transport Network.

Space mines have actually been considered in real life studies as possible space weapons utilizing current tech. Examples:

So yeah, some degree of Truth in Television.

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • June 25, 2011
    GinaInTheKingsRoad
    • Star Trek Deep Space Nine has the Klingons establishing an illegal cloaked minefield in "Sons of Mogh." The mines are dormant and have to be remotely activated in event of war-- and would effectively cut DS9 and Bajor off from support from elsewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. More on Star Trek mines here.
  • June 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    FWIW the Klingon mines make no sense, since they'd have to mine space three-dimensionally - which they don't - in order to be effective, and it would literally take hundreds of years to do even at like 15 seconds a mine. (They don't just mine around Bajor, they mine around the entire Bajoran star system.)
  • June 25, 2011
    Micah
    ^I think that's true of most examples of this. The other DS 9 example is actually pretty rare in its making-sense-ness.
  • June 25, 2011
    Reflextion
    To expand (no pun intended) on the Star Wars Expanded Universe example:
    • Both the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games feature mines that shoot at you, rather than exploding. Most of the missions that feature these tend to be quite difficult.
  • June 25, 2011
    Koveras
    There are massive space minefields around the Men's Planet (forget what it's called) that is visited towards the end of Vandread (second season). They are used to reveal First Mate BC as The Mole, since s/he knows the friend-foe codes of the mines that allow Nirvana to pass them.
  • June 25, 2011
    ayjazz
    • Star Fox 64: IIRC, the first few seconds of Sector X has a cloud of mines you have to go through.
  • June 25, 2011
    Earnest
    I hate to say it, but we already have Space Marine.
  • June 25, 2011
    JonnyB
    Perhaps you misread the title. This is Space MINES, not Space MARINES.
  • June 25, 2011
    Earnest
    Well, that's embarrassing.

    Here, pick one of these as a page pic and I'll upload it for ya.
  • June 25, 2011
    JonnyB
    This one or this one work. Though the 2nd one is a bit big and a bit dark.
  • June 25, 2011
    Earnest
    Cropping them wouldn't be a problem, I don't know how to brighten them though.
  • June 25, 2011
    JonnyB
    That's alright, I can do it. Got lotsa photoshop skillz lol. Thanks for finding the pics tho.
  • June 25, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    I Thought It Meant Space Mines as in mining something, such as valuable materials from asteroids, or other planets In Space.
  • June 25, 2011
    Micah
    • The Stargate SG-1 episode "The Serpent's Venom" takes place in a space minefield where the mines all lock onto any sign of weapons, which is used by the Go'a'uld as a neutral meeting place. SG-1 has to reprogram a mine to attack one of the Go'a'uld ships at the meeting, in order to instigate a conflict.
  • June 25, 2011
    MC42
    Homeworld has Minelaying Corvettes. The mines themselves are proximity-triggered homing mines, solving the problem of mining in 3D space.
  • June 26, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Stewart Cowley's Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 A.D.. During the war with Proxima Centauri, the perimeter of Earth's solar system was seeded with nuclear mines. They would home in on the warp generators of arriving enemy ships and destroy them while they were recharging their power banks after the warp jump.

    Live Action TV

    Tabletop Games
    • Star Fleet Battles. Ships can "roll a mine out a hatch" and leave it to blow up a ship pursuing them. Mines can be set to accept only certain sizes of ships as targets. Major space installations often had minefield belts protecting them. Some of the mine types available:
      • The Romulans have a Nuclear Space Mine based on the Star Trek The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".
      • Command mines can be ordered to detonate or to activate/deactivate themselves.
      • Chained mines detonate when other mines explode.
      • Transporter bombs can be beamed into position.
      • Captor mines can fire weapons at targets.
  • June 26, 2011
    Fanra
    FWIW the Klingon mines make no sense, since they'd have to mine space three-dimensionally - which they don't - in order to be effective, and it would literally take hundreds of years to do even at like 15 seconds a mine.

    Yes, due to the fact that Space Is Big and in 3D, this is Awesome But Impractical.
  • June 26, 2011
    JonnyB
    Which is why I hyperlinked Two D Space and Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale. :)
  • June 26, 2011
    alethiophile
    Honorverse has this; it gets around SpaceIsBig by having the mines basically be the same 10,000-kilometer-range laser warheads found on their missiles.
  • June 26, 2011
    aurora369
    Elite 2:Frontier and Elite 3: Frontier First Encounters space-sim video games let you deploy these mines... or be blown to bits with them. Honestly, these mines are uneffective.
  • June 26, 2011
    Prfnoff
  • June 26, 2011
    JonnyB
    I'm not really sure if Crystal Quest counts. I've seen several descriptions of the game (and watched some play video)... the mine-like things are in some decriptions called land mines, and in others, called stars, it's unclear exactly what they are other than they explode when you hit them.
  • June 27, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
  • June 27, 2011
    Augustine
    Mines are used in multiple battles in the Legend Of The Galactic Heroes.
  • June 27, 2011
    JonnyB
    @c0ry: please put suggested edits and additions in the comment section. Editing someone else's YKTTW is considered very rude.

    The edit you left I'd say is pretty much speculation, probably should best go on the discussion page after this trope is launched.
  • June 27, 2011
    terrafox
    Can someone tell me how self-propelled space-mines with homing capability are functionally different from missiles?

    Sea Mines work(ed) well for two reasons: 1. Earth's ocean and sea terrain contains a lot of inlets, natural harbors, bays, straights and other types of terrain that make natural choke-points where the use of mines is a practical way to deny or substantially delay passage to unwanted ships. No such barriers or terrain exists in space to prevent ships from circumnavigating such a barrier. Even protecting a very small moon with a density of one mine every few thousand cubic km would require huge numbers of mines and logistical support to successfully achieve coverage. The same logistical resources would be of better use in improving detection and interception/quick reaction capability.

    2. Sea mines are deployed under water, greatly complicating the task of detecting and clearing them. Space ships could just pick them off with long range guns/laser/missile/decoy/whatever.

  • June 27, 2011
    AFP
    Later Honor Verse works up the ante by replacing the laser mines with missile pods.
  • June 27, 2011
    JonnyB
    @terrafox: "Can someone tell me how self-propelled space-mines with homing capability are functionally different from missiles?"

    Physically, they may not be. The difference semantically though would be that a missile is usually intentionally fired from one ship toward another, with the intent of hitting a specific target. A mine is usually dropped and left behind in a particular location, and whether it just sits there until proximity sets it off or whether it is self-propelled and homes in on something, it's intended target is not specified. Often minefields are more of a psychological barrier than anything else.

    The rest of your post is largely Fridge Logic, lol. Good points though; I'm thinking there should probably be a Fridge Logic page for this trope, as that's going to be often.

    The Battlestar Galactica reference above subverted your point #1, though... in the story, there was a narrow passage through a dense nebula that allowed safe passage, and that was where the Cylons laid the mines. The nebula interfered with the Galactica's sensors so they had to send two Vipers ahead to visually spot and destroy them ahead of the fleet.

    The Romulans and Klingons also cloaked their mines to subvert your point #2.
  • June 28, 2011
    terrafox
    So in other words, it takes a contrived circumstance (BSG), a hand-wave and substantial amounts of technobabble (Star Trek) to make them viable space warfare implements.

    Aside from that, cloaking only subverts part of it. Once cloak detection is available (and it always becomes available as the plot continues), it is still a matter of just picking them off at range. Sea mines require highly specialized training, equipment and lots of time to safely clear.
  • June 28, 2011
    JonnyB
    Hey, I didn't come up with the trope. :p But it's obvious that most space stories use the concept, even if in real life it would probably be useless. And use them in the same way that sea mines are used. And therein lies the trope.
  • June 28, 2011
    JonnyB
    Ok, I just wandered off and figured out how to make a fridge page, so as soon as I launch this trope there will also be a fridge logic page for people to post all of their observations about the trope. (I'll start it off by including all the ones that have been posted here so far.)

    Appreciate everyone's help so far! Since it's got five hats already, I'll probably launch it tomorrow afternoon/evening (about 12 hours from the time of this post).
  • June 28, 2011
    Techhead
    It might be feasible to set up Space Mines in certain high-traffic orbitals, e.g. geosynchronous orbit. Other targets would be those used in an orbital insertion after launch from a major ground-based spaceport. You could also position them at Lagrange points due to their use in the Interplanetary Transport Network.

    Space mines have actually been considered in real life studies as possible space weapons utilizing current tech. Examples:

    So yeah, some degree of Truth In Television.
  • June 28, 2011
    FaxModem1
    Can the name be changed to Space Minefield, because my first thought was of a mine for some sort of minerals.
  • June 28, 2011
    JonnyB
    Which is why I put in the description that it had nothing to do with that. I wanted to keep it similar to Sea Mine. But I'll make a redirect, sure.
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