Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Do You Need to Build a 'Star Wars' Death Star? an Asteroid

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Do You Need to Build a 'Star Wars' Death Star? an Asteroid

Article excerpt

A NASA engineer says that we could one day build a Death Star of our own. And the best way to construction the fictional Death Star of the "Star Wars" universe, is to use something already floating in space: asteroids.

"[An asteroid] could provide the metals," Brian Muirhead, chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Wired. "You have organic compounds, you have water--all the building blocks you would need to build your family Death Star."

In addition to promoting his own work at NASA, Mr. Muirhead is tapping into the publicity around the next Star Wars film - and public support for a Death Star.

In 2012, a petition, which garnered nearly 35,000 signatures, asked that the White House invest in and begin building a Death Star by 2016.

But the White House's official response to the petition was appropriately tongue in check. The response, titled, "This isn't the Petition you're looking for" gave these excuses for turning down the project:

The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.

The Administration does not support blowing up planets.

Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Death Star or no, asteroids are of growing interest to scientists and corporations.

Muirhead is also the director of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which is working to one day obtain large boulders from near- Earth asteroids and move them into orbit around the moon, where they could then be more easily studied by astronauts.

NASA announced ARM in March 2015, and intends to officially launch the program in the year 2020. The mission seeks to contribute to the quest for Mars by eventually reducing astronauts' dependency on planet Earth: getting to Mars becomes more cost-efficient if the area around the moon, called "cis-lunar space," is used for refueling and supplies, rather than relying on Earth. …

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