Searching for a ship in space is no easy task. As other writers have noted. space is big, really big. When compared to space even the greatest of starships seems miniscule. A Nomad class scout ship such as the Wanderlust is downright titchy. To find such an object in space requires perseverance, luck and some sort of hint where to look, and some more luck. Covering as much space as possible as quickly as possible without neglecting areas for an overly long period of time is a complicated task
The standard fractal search pattern is , despite its name, not a set course or pattern. It is in fact a set of algorithms that are used to plot a course appropriate to the situation. The algorithms factor in the ships available and their engine and sensor capabilities, the information known about the missing vessel, especially it's position and course, the presence of stellar bodies ranging from asteroids to stars and more and produces a course that fills the space the could potentially be found in in such a way as to not neglect any areas of the space, conserve supplies within the searching vessels and handle a multitude of other factors.
Chance can also be a factor in the resulting course. Usually a number of course are generated which are reflections or rotations of each other, and in the absence of other information randomization is used to decide. This is rare, as in most cases there is information regarding the ships status and course to make the optimal search pattern unique.
The standard fractal search pattern has proven to be about five times as effective as its predecessor, the spherical spiral search pattern. In the 1047 known and analyzed real case applications of the standard fractal search pattern, the subject of the search has been located in time to rescue the crew in just 1.2% of searches involving one searching ship, 2.5% of two ship searches, and 6% of searches involving 3 or more ships. Untimely location of a missing ship has a likelihood of approximately 5% per searching ship. Even today the crew of a lost ship have slim chances of survival.