Watch a NASA scientist school the empire on how to build a better death star (Serious Cat via Flickr/Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
Watch a NASA scientist school the empire on how to build a better death star
Lexile

The Death Star of the movies might be one of the most terrifying weapons of mass destruction ever created. But it's clear that the moon-sized space station wasn't the most well-thought-out venture. After all, what good is a planet-destroying weapon if it can be taken down by one measly little X-Wing? As it turns out, the Empire totally overlooked another design.  It would have been faster, cheaper and more effective.  It could have simply built the Death Star around an asteroid.

The biggest problem with the Death Star (aside from that pesky exhaust port blasted apart by Luke Skywalker) is that building it would have been monstrously expensive. It is as big as a moon.  And it was built from scratch.  (Not to mention that the Empire also created a backup. It was stashed in orbit around Endor). To build two massive space weapons in such a short period of time would have wrapped up such a huge amount of money.  So their destruction likely decimated the Galactic Economy.  And it would have happened overnight.  This is what Matthew Braga writes for Motherboard. In fact, Zachary Feinstein, an economist and associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, did the math.  He found that destroying the Death Star might have been Emperor Palpatine's final revenge against the Rebel Alliance.  Even as the good guys celebrated their victory, the loss of the Death Star would send them struggling to prevent a galaxy-wide economic depression.

"We found that the Rebel Alliance would need to prepare a bailout of at least 15 percent, and likely at least 20 percent, of [Galactic Gross Product] in order to mitigate the systemic risks and the sudden and catastrophic economic collapse," Feinstein wrote in a new paper.  It was published to the arXiv preprint server.  It is a publication for papers that have not been peer-reviewed.  "Without such funds at the ready, it is likely the Galactic economy would enter an economic depression of astronomical proportions."
 
"If one wanted to build a Death Star, you didn't build it by launching a bunch of stuff off a planet," Muirhead says.  He spoke in a video for Wired. "You went and got yourself an asteroid and built it from that." In addition to the stability an asteroid core would add to the Death Star's structure, Muirhead says that it would also provide all the assets a Sith Lord would need to realize his evil engineering vision.  Those assets include raw metals, organic compounds and even water for the future space station.
 
Surprisingly, this isn't just a thought experiment for Muirhead.  It's his job. Muirhead is a chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  He is actually in charge of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission.  It aims to send a crewed mission to land on a deep-space asteroid.  The goal is to achieve the feat by 2023 and drag it back to Earth orbit.
 
While NASA isn't planning on building its own Death Stars any time soon, the Rebel Alliance should consider itself lucky that Muirhead doesn't work for the Empire.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why should the Rebel Alliance consider itself lucky that Muirhead doesn't work for the Empire?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (89)
  • peterl-hor
    1/08/2016 - 03:02 p.m.

    The authors purpose in this story was to inform a Star Wars fan if the Death Star really did exist it would probably put the Galactic Empire into a major debt. In this story I learned that sometimes bigger really isn't better. I also learned that if the human race tried to build something very technologically advanced in such a short time it definitely would increase the Earth's financial problems. One thing I don't agree with in this article is towards the end of this article why would NASA try to bring an asteroid to Earth. Somehow that's going to end badly!

  • taylorp-1-bar
    1/08/2016 - 08:30 p.m.

    The Rebel Alliance is lucky that Muirhead doesn't work for the Empire, because Muirhead is an expert in Death Star schematics. On paragraph 5, it states," It's his job. Muirhead is a chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory." This job deals with Asteroid redirection, which provides him with information including Death Stars. I enjoyed this article because I saw the new Star Wars movie, and I didn't expect It to relate to real life.

  • braedenn-spe
    1/11/2016 - 11:20 a.m.

    it doesn't sound interesting

  • marinag-spe
    1/11/2016 - 11:22 a.m.

    I agree. If i were to build a space ship i would build it on a asteroid. Building by scratch that would be really difficult because you have to lay out all the floors and the shape of the ship and all the measurements on each level.

  • nicholasm-hor
    1/11/2016 - 12:52 p.m.

    The author's purpose is that in order to build a Death Star it would cost a lot of money a real hole lot of money. I learned that the death Star would be built on a asteroid. I agree because it would cost so much money. I will remember that it would take years to build it.

  • josephs-hor
    1/11/2016 - 02:45 p.m.

    This was a vey interesting and informal article. I really like how N.A.S.A might build their own Death Star to make the one in Star Wars: A New Hope look like a terrible mess. That's funny! I learned that if the galactic empire were to make a Death Star that big that they would be really, really, really short on money.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    1/11/2016 - 10:20 p.m.

    The NASA scientist school might have wanted to build the death star that it the same as the Death Star in star wars but the NASA scientists might have wanted to build a death star that would have had few changes that is more different. The scientists might have wanted to make a the same Death Star from the movie star wars but NASA might have wanted to make changes when they are making the same death star from star wars. The NASA team might have wanted to build a moon space station that might be able to look the same as the death star but the NASA space team might want some changes. The NASA might have wanted to have changes on the death star that they are building because the NASA might have wanted to build a death star that is more improved than the original death star in star wars.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why should the Rebel Alliance consider itself lucky that Muirhead doesn't work for the Empire?
    Answer: Because the Rebel Alliance are fighting the Empire because if Muirhead was working with the Empire, the Rebel Alliance might have not had someone that will design something that would help the Rebel Alliance.

  • tylerm472-
    1/12/2016 - 09:37 a.m.

    I believe building the death star around a astroid would cause a lot of problems because of the water in it and the potential of water going into the ship and ruining the system of wires and machines.

  • lucasl-3-bar
    1/13/2016 - 05:02 p.m.

    The Rebel Alliance is fortunate that Muirhead does not work for the Empire, because Muirhead is an expert in Death Star schematics. On paragraph 5, it says that Muirhead is a chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. By learning about asteroid projection, information is provided about Death Stars.

    The article was an interesting description of how scientists today can use logical research and innovation to theoretically create something from the movies.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    1/13/2016 - 08:21 p.m.

    I think this is cool because I never thought that the Death Star would be so expensive. If the Death Star was the size of the moon and insanely expensive, then Starkiller Base would be even more expensive. It's hard to imagine how much it would cost to make such a thing. All I know is that it was enough to make the Galactic Economy go into a depression.
    Why should the Rebel Alliance consider itself lucky that Muirhead doesn't work for the Empire?
    Answer: The Rebel Alliance consider itself lucky that Muirhead didn't work for the Empire because he would make the Death Star faster, and cost less.

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