Generation Ships are large, self-sustaining environment ships which allow for very slow interstellar travel at sub-light speed. They are a type of Megaship.
The first Generation Ship left the Earth in 2097 and they were sent for several decades. Up to 70,000 in total left the Sol system before hyperdrive technology was invented in the 22nd century, rendering Generation Ships obsolete from then on.
In GalNet NewsEdit
05 JUL 3301 "The Founding of the Federation"Edit
... the explosive exploration triggered by the invention of the hyperdrive by Li Qin Jao and others in the 22nd century, first by unmanned probes, then with manned craft, overtaking the generation ships sent in the previous decades ... In 2242 the Federation Accord was created outlining certain rights and responsibilities for members, uniting many of the new colonies, by force in some cases. After a short conflict the Taylor Colony in Tau Ceti became the first signatory outside the Sol system. 
19 AUG 3302 "Galactic News: Generation Ships"Edit
Continuing our popular series on significant episodes from human history, noted historian Sima Kalhana discusses generation ships.
"Before the development of faster-than-light travel, colonizing distant star systems was a profoundly difficult proposition. For the people of the 21st Century, the answer was the generation ship. These vast interstellar arks, equipped with everything needed to sustain human life, were crewed by multiple successive generations – pioneers who were born, lived and died aboard a starship."
"The first generation ship was launched in 2097, and in the centuries that followed, many more set off into the vastness of space. Most of these ambitious expeditions were funded by large corporations, and the penalties for interfering with them were severe, given the enormous cost of mobilizing them."
"At the time of writing, there are believed to be somewhere in the region of 70,000 generation ships coursing through the galaxy. The approximate location of most of these ships has been calculated, but not all are accounted for. Many of the corporations that funded the original generation ships have now been dissolved or assimilated by other organizations, so it is difficult to determine exactly who is responsible for some of these vessels."
"It has been theorized that some of the original generation ships may soon reach their destinations, but since not all of those destinations are known, it is entirely possible that they could have been colonized while the generation ships were in transit. We can only hope the powers-that-be have a contingency strategy for such a scenario." 
29 APR 3303 "Galactic News: Generation Ship Found"Edit
Before the development of faster-than-light travel, colonising distant star systems depended on vast interstellar arks known as generation ships. There are believed to be more than 70,000 of these ships in the galaxy, the location of many of which is not known.
But now one of these "lost" ships has been found. A transmission recovered from a listening post in the LHS 1047 system led a pair of independent pilots to the Alaunus system, where the generation ship "Lycaon" was discovered. Tragically, it appears that the ship's crew was killed by an unidentified pathogen, no doubt many centuries ago. This was confirmed by remotely accessing the ship’s medical logs.
System authorities have urged pilots not to interfere with the vessel, which is still protected by the legislature instated at the time of its launch.
The story of the Generation ships is the story of adventurers that first went out into the void in far more primitive vessels than those enjoyed by Elite Dangerous players in the 34th century.
In the history of Elite Dangerous (which runs from the present day to the in-game year of 3302), the centuries between 2200 and 2700 have been labelled as a ‘golden age’ of exploration. Technology was primitive by the standards of the 34th century, with no FTL comms, no hyperspace, primitive weapons and harsh living conditions.
The article then makes reference to one major component of Elite Dangerous Lore… the mythical generation ships. So what is a Generation ship? It’s a pretty well established SF trope. Have a look at the Wikipedia entry and report back, Commander!
Many thousands of generation ships left Earth from the 21st century (the first leaving in 2097), but it seems the process of launching them on their way was not well regulated. Many were not as well prepared as they should have been. In those days when faster-than-light communication didn’t exist, many of these potential settlers faced terrible risks alone, traveling thousands of light years into the void, not unlike the wagon trains that set out across continental US in the 18th and 19th centuries before them. Records indicate that up to 70,000 such ships were launched.
Some were successful at founding new worlds; for instance, the home system of The Ancients of Mumu, Phekda (also known as Gamma Ursae Majoris and Phad), was colonized by a Generation Ship. However, most ships were not successful. Some, reportedly, even managed to return with tales of their adventures.
Many Generation Ships were lost in deep space, the dead hulk of their ship carrying on an almost endless trajectory ever deeper into space. Others managed to land and survived for many decades before being overtaken by some local disaster.
Some may still be alive, just restricted to low power light speed communications, or no comms at all, as their equipment has failed over the centuries in between. We say they have disappeared without trace, but just maybe some will find some traces of them that are still out there.
Some are into their 30th generation. Those that are still enroute are travelling in ‘normal’ space, at relativistic velocities.
Collectively these travellers are known as ‘the missing.’
Interestingly enough, if you ‘do the math’, you’ll discover that due to the relativistic speeds, time aboard the Generation ships will have been compressed for the occupants. A further observation results in the conclusion that many of the ships should be reaching their destinations around about now if you assume they were targeted at stars within 100 lightyears (which seems plausible for 21st-24th century technology). The maximum distance they could realistically travel would be around a 1,000 lightyears (probably much less), so both the ships and the civilization that emerged, if any did make it, should be easily reachable by today’s explorers.
Much more than this we do not yet know, but this remains one of the most intriguing of the Elite Dangerous lore Legends. We wait with bated breath to learn more.
DEV UPDATE (10/12/2015)Edit
The Missing is an encompassing term for everyone who has disappeared without trace in deep space. This includes colonists on the ancient generation ships, lost colonies, disappeared scientific expeditions and a host of others. Some will know from our timeline that many thousands of ‘generation ships’ left the safety of Earth beginning in the 24th century onwards ... Some managed to return with tales of their adventures. Some were lost in deep space, the dead hulk of their ship carrying on an almost endless trajectory ever deeper into space. Others managed to land and survived for many decades before being overtaken by some local disaster. Some may still be alive, just restricted to low power light speed communications, or no comms at all, as their equipment has failed over the centuries in between. We say they have disappeared without trace, but just maybe some will find some traces of them that are still out there…
Where to look for Generation ShipsEdit
As of update 2.3, Generation Ships can be found by first locating a Listening Post in a system. Any Listening Posts are visible in the navigation tab once you jump into a system, it doesn't need to be explored. Then follow the clues provided to find a Generation Ship. Listening Posts can be in systems 0 to 90 light years from Sol.
From "ELITE DANGEROUS LORE : GENERATION SHIPS": 
"... the conclusion that many of the ships should be reaching their destinations around about now if you assume they were targeted at stars within 100 lightyears (which seems plausible for 21st-24th century technology). The maximum distance they could realistically travel would be around a 1,000 lightyears (probably much less)."
Also it mentions The Golden Age of Exploration which took between 2200 and 2700.
Generation Ship LycaonEdit
The Generation Ship Lycaon was discovered in the Alaunus system by CMDR Lexic Meise on April 23, 3303, and the first missing generation ship to have been located. The Lycaon's position can be reached by traveling to the 10th planet in the Alaunus system, then flying 22,000 ls in supercruise in the direction of the Horae system. According to the Lycaon's logs, the generation ship's passengers were all wiped out by a contagious alien microorganism that had symptoms similar to influenza and was immune to all available vaccines. The microorganism had been picked up during a survey of an asteroid, and quickly spread through the ship. After the passengers died, the ship apparently lost power and came to rest in its present location.
Generation Ship VenusianEdit
Generation Ship Venusian was discovered by CMDR Klumpozyte on April 26, 3303. It is located in the Kitae system, and can be found by traveling in supercruise 2,500 ls in the direction of Zephyrus. The Venusian's logs explain that the ship was attacked and boarded by a pirate fleet seeking to capture the passengers to sell into slavery. A dozen crew members and about a hundred passengers were able to barricade themselves in a section of the ship for a while, but the ship's Executive Officer turned traitor and showed the pirates how to access hidden maintenance tunnels to get behind the barricades, ending the standoff. With the crew and passengers dead or enslaved, the Venusian was abandoned.
Generation Ship HyperionEdit
Generation Ship Hyperion was discovered by CMDR Vall on April 27, 3303. It is located in Lalande 2966, and can be found by traveling to the fourth planet in the system and then changing course toward Yemaki for 7,000 ls. Hyperion's troubles began when the passengers began to worship a child named Zachariah as a messiah who would lead them to the "promised land". When the ship's commander tried to stop a ritual and detain Zachariah, he was thrown out an airlock. Eventually, Zachariah revealed his plan to open all of the ship's airlocks; the passengers went along with it, believing they would ascend to a higher plane of existence. The Hyperion's midshipman planned to kill Zachariah before he could carry out his plan, but failed, either because he was killed or he acted too late. The life support systems were overridden and the Hyperion vented its air, presumably killing all of the passengers and crew.
Generation Ship OdysseusEdit
Generation Ship Odysseus was discovered by CMDR DarkShadowLYNX on April 28, 3303. It is located in Ross 859, orbiting the planet Ross 859 B 1. During the Odysseus' journey, its passengers elected a governing council with absolute authority that decided to alter the generation ship's mission. Since the ship had sustainable food, water, medical supplies, and power, it was believed that living aboard it indefinitely was safer than risking a colonization effort on an unknown planet. Years later, during the fifth generation of passengers, the Odysseus faced a deadly disease outbreak. The council enacted martial law and quarantined parts of the ship, which were then vented out into space. Some passengers wanted to remove the council and force the Odysseus to let them off at the next habitable world, but none had any knowledge of how to survive outside the ship and without the council's laws. However, the disease returned. After twenty years of fighting a losing battle against the contagion, the council and most of the passengers had perished. One of the few remaining passengers recorded a warning to stay away from the ship.
Generation Ship ThetisEdit
Generation Ship Thetis was discovered by CMDR Rhaider on April 28, 3303. It is located in Nefertem, orbiting the planet Nefertem 6 A. Shortly into the Thetis's ninth generation, passengers began reporting whispering sounds coming from comms units. The sounds, a digital signal being picked up by the ship's comms array, drove passengers homicidally insane, resulting in the loss of whole decks. The signal was found to have originated from an uninhabited planet that the Thetis had passed 15 lightyears earlier. A crew member who accidentally heard the signal described it as a whisper that said "kill them all". The crew were unable to stop the signal's spread through the comms network, and the killings continued, with those affected also writing words in an unknown script on the walls in blood. The final log is a garbled transmission of the signal.
Generation Ship PleioneEdit
Generation Ship Pleione was discovered by CMDR Carbucketty on May 5, 3303. It is located in Hez Ur, and can be found by traveling to the fifth planet in the system and then changing course toward Teuten for 8,000 ls. Generation Ship Pleione failed because its passengers began to give birth to only male children. The ship's medical officer discovered that the ship's male passengers were only producing gametes with the Y chromosome, an inexplicable anomaly. While this could have been rectified with technology, the officer's predecessor had not seen fit to bring any medical equipment that could manipulate gender at the embryonic stage or any XX and XY genetic samples. Being that the males had no X chromosomes to give, even artificial insemination was not an option. Eventually, all of the ship's females reached an age where they could no longer conceive, dooming the population. The remaining (all male) passengers decided to abandon ship. The medical officer decided to stay behind and die with the mission.
- ↑ The Founding of the Federation
- ↑ Galactic News: Generation Ships
- ↑ Galactic News: Generation Ship Found
- ↑ Elite Dangerous Lore: Generation Ships by Drew Wagar
- ↑ DEV UPDATE (10/12/2015)
- ↑ ELITE DANGEROUS LORE on GENERATION SHIPS
- ↑ /r/EliteDangerous: The first Generation Ship has been discovered!
- ↑ Frontier Forums: Generation Ship "Venusian"
- ↑ /r/EliteDangerous: Another generation ship located: Hyperion.
- ↑ /r/EliteDangerous: Generation ship Odysseus discovered!!!
- ↑ /r/EliteDangerous: Generation Ship Thetis found. Madness and Ghosts and a mysterious signal*Spoilers
- ↑ /r/EliteDangerous: Generation Ship Pleione discovered