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Star Wars fans ask NASA to build a hyperdrive

Star Wars fans want NASA to develop faster-than-light travel, so that humans can visit other star systems. After all, in the 'Star Wars' universe, the technology was developed a long time ago, in a galaxy far away.

By SPACE.com staff / August 18, 2010

Star Wars fans have asked NASA to develop hyperspace-capable spacecraft, such as that used by this Imperial Star Destroyer.

Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox/Newscom/File

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Die-hard "Star Wars" fans have visited the imaginary worlds of Hoth and Tatooine countless times in the sci-fi films, and now they want NASA's help to do some real intergalactic exploring.

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At the Star Wars Celebration V convention in Florida over the weekend, "Star Wars" filmmakers and fans asked NASA representatives to develop a hyperdrive that can transport astronauts through space at light speed. And to make it snappy.

After all, in the "Star Wars" universe, the technology was developed a long time ago, in a galaxy far away.

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"The idea of spending six months traveling to Mars doesn't seem very exciting," said Gary Kurtz, producer of the original "Star Wars" in 1977 and its first sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back."

Film stars and fans like the idea of exploring new worlds, the same sentiment that made them "Star Wars" fans to begin with.

"It's always been a quest of man just to look up at the stars and wonder what is beyond that black and blue space," said Anthony Daniels, who played the golden humanoid droid C-3PO in all six "Star Wars" films.

Of course, "Star Wars" fans aren't the only ones who'd like to see a way to move around space quickly. Some of NASA's own scientists envision the same thing.

"We need better propulsion systems. Right now I'd say that would be the one invention that would really help us out a lot," said Joseph Tellado, a logistics manager for the International Space Station. "It'd be great if our astronauts could go at hyperspeed."

It's hard to say what a real hyperdrive might look like, but NASA has long studied different ways to move faster around the solar system. Some recent probes have used exotic propulsion systems, notably the Deep Space 1 and Dawn missions, which were powered by ion engines.

The inspiration works both ways, with NASA and "Star Wars" inspiring each other to stretch out and envision the future and then fill in details of what that future might look like.

"For us making 'Star Wars,' we wanted to celebrate space travel," Kurtz said. "The moon landings, of course, were very important, but I think more recently the Hubble Space Telescope and the space station have been very good keys for people that this work is very important."

"I believe 'Star Wars' and NASA have a lot in common," Tellado said. "We're looking to the future. NASA is like the first stepping stone to ultimately get to that 'Star Wars' level."

There are some more down-to-Earth Star Wars technologies that fans also would like to see. Their wish list ranges from a healing substance like the one in which Luke Skywalker was immersed to blasters that stun bad guys.

Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in "The Empire Strikes Back," spoke up for the development of one of his character's signature technologies: a personal jetpack.

"If there's a traffic jam, then you'll be able to go over those cars instead of just driving badly and keep crashing into them," Bulloch said.

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