A sad day for Star Wars fans. While three new Disney-sponsored films in the intergalactic franchise are on the horizon, the construction of an actual Death Star, like the one Darth Vader called home in the films, above Earth is not. (Sigh.)
A petition setup on the Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov website amassed more than 34,000 e-signatures demanding that the Obama Administration “secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.” The group argued that “focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star” would “spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.” While an excellent point, those 34,000 people overlooked some potential hurdles.
In what could only be called a small victory in the face of eminent defeat for Star Wars fans, the White House actually responded to the petition.
“The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon,” began the poignant response from the U.S. government that ultimately nixed the plan.
The author of the response, Paul Shawcross, serves as Science and Space Branch Chief at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Shawcross, who helped pen the White House’s fiscal 2013 budget, cited three main reasons for the petition’s rebuttal, and affectionately titled it: “This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For.”
Shawcross says that the construction of the Death Star would cost the U.S. somewhere in the $850,000,000,000,000,000 ballpark. “We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it,” he rationalized. He also added that the U.S. government “does not support blowing up planets” nor would it “spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?” (Might Shawcross, himself, be a fan of the Star Wars films? That is still undetermined.)
Shawcross challenged the undersigned to apply their keen imaginations to the current night sky, as it is already home to a pseudo Death Star. “Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations,” he wrote. He noted that with six astronauts aboard from three different countries, it was more of a peaceful stopover in the cosmos, than destroyer ship.
While Shawcross’ response is point-blank hilarious, it is also immensely informational, as he provides links to several currently in-the-works space projects. “We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers,” he challenged. (Okay, this guy is definitely a HUGE Star Wars fan.)
Alas, the Death Star petitioners should be basking in their defeat. They did manage to get a response from the U.S. government, and it isn’t necessarily a dead end. There are several privately funded aerospace companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, that they can hit up for that $850,000,000,000,000,000.
Adds Shawcross, “We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field.” May the force be with you.