One common feature of interstellar spaceships in fiction is that they have literal windows in which you can see what’s actually outside in that direction.
In reality though, even if we’re talking about ships that could travel between stars in mere weeks (via time dilation), there’s not much point in seeing essentially the same white dots on black canvas every minute of every day.
(So far real-world manned craft include windows but they are not interstellar, so they have things to see out of the window).
So windows would probably be fake, but what should they show? (and note I’m just talking about shared windows, obviously a crewmember can do whatever they like with their own windows). Some options:
[li]What’s outside (i.e. you disagree with my premise)[/li][li]Pretty space (add some fake nebulae or whatever to make it more aesthetically pleasing, as well as some parallax)[/li][li]Annotated space (a more human-oriented, navigatable view)[/li][li]Blue sky and white fluffy clouds[/li][li]A pretty landscape (why even bother reminding the crew that the ship is in motion?)[/li][li]Something else?[/li][/ul]
There’s another problem with actual windows on starships: Stars are really dim. Do you ever look out your window at night? Do you see stars? No, you can’t, not unless you turn off the lights in your house and allow your eyes to adapt to the dark. (And no, stars are not noticeably brighter when you are above the earth’s atmosphere.)
In addition, humans do better with a proper day/night cycle. So I think it would be better to have fake windows that is brightly lit during the “day” and dark at “night.” I’d vote for a brightly lit landscape scene. At “night” they can show a live feed from an external camera.
As I understand it, large planes (I’m not talking Cessna or fighter jets) don’t really have useable visible cues. It’s mostly by instruments. So I don’t think spaceships need windows or separate gun pods for kids to get cocky in.
If I were travelling in an interstellar spacecraft I’d like to see an annotated and augmented display of the local neighborhood, adjusted for relativistic effects if any (hopefully the ship would be travelling fast enough to have some pretty severe relativistic effects, or you’d be in there for centuries). I love to see the three-dimensional relationships between stars, and how they change as you move though space; the free programs Celestia and Space Engine give a pretty good impression of what this might look like, and you can increase the brightness of dimmer stars to make them more easily visible. Of course an optional data tag would help quite a lot, as well as some sort of reference grid that you could activate if needed.
I think that by the time we have spaceships like that we should be able to have our own personalised display piped straight into our visual system - so we probably wouldn’t need windows, fake or otherwise.
I agree some synthetic annotated external view would be a nice feature, but not one needed all the time. I’d go so far as to question the idea there’d be screens anywhere whose function is to be a “window” or be wall art. Assuming current-ish tech plus interstellar drive, everyone on the crew will have all the display capability they need in their tablet / phone / glasses. Whether they use it for their job, entertainment, or psychological comfort is up to them individually.
You’ll want the real windows during takeoff and landing.
I don’t see what’s wrong with seeing the “real” space outside, even if it’s just nothing but black sky and tiny stars. If you want day and night lighting to help people sleep, then just install a lot of internal lighting, like how submarines and airliners regulate internal cabin lighting.
Well, you could do what they did in the movie adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Nightflyers and have clouds projected on the ceiling. But I hated that movie.
I like the idea of cartoon Western landscapes, especially if you have an occasional cartoon Road Runner running by (faster than the ship, of course), or a Coyote falling off a cliff.
But you might not even need even fake windows. I recall a cynical little piece that Gahan Wilson did back in the 1970s envisioning when spaceflight became cheap and popular. He had someone writing back that “you couod see the whole universe out there, if you wanted”, but everybody inside was too busy gambling on the slots and video poker.
Comer to thin of it, most people don’t look out their aircraft windows even though there IS something to see. They watch videos on the seat TV. Sounds like Stanley Kubrick may have had it right in 2001, with Heywood Floyd watching a drama on the Pan Am space clipper and a sumo match on the lunar run.
If you haven’t flown recently you’re in for a surprise. About 95% of the window shades are full down about 95% of the time. The light from open window shades washes out everybody’s tablet / phone / laptop / seatback screen.
The cabin crew used to PA for shades to be up for takeoff and landing so you and they had some hope of seeing where the fire is outside if there was an event needing an evacuation. That was stopped a couple years ago when compliance collapsed to zero and TPTB decided it was just too hard.