What do you need to build a 'Star Wars' Death Star? An asteroid

Asteroids contain many of the raw materials necessary to build the fictional Star Wars weapon. But that's just one part of rising interest in the public and private space industry regarding asteroids.

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
"Darth Vader" speaks from the stage at the 2011 Scream Awards, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011, in Los Angeles. To build a Death Star, it would have to be done with an asteroid, a NASA engineer suggests.

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 whitehouse.gov 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. 

Private space companies have also joined the race to cultivate and mine asteroids.

Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company, has already sent several exploratory satellites into space. In July, the company received two grants from NASA to further their research, including the development of a 3D-printed integrated structure and propulsion system, and plans to launch a satellite aimed at an as-yet unselected target asteroid in 2018.

The company is interested in mining asteroids for water and potential minerals, the company’s CEO, Chris Lewicki, told Space.com, and sees a promising future for the fledgling industry.

"We have every expectation that delivering water from asteroids and creating an in-space refueling economy is something that we'll see in the next 10 years – even in the first half of the 2020s," Mr. Lewicki said.

In November of this year, Congress passed a bill called the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act that seeks to regulate this emergent field. The bill, signed into law by President Barack Obama, will not only allow private companies to mine asteroids, but also claim ownership to whatever raw materials they find there.

"This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space," Eric C. Anderson, Planetary Resources co-founder, told Tech Times.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What do you need to build a 'Star Wars' Death Star? An asteroid
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/1212/What-do-you-need-to-build-a-Star-Wars-Death-Star-An-asteroid
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe