White House Announces U.S. Government Will Not Build Death Star
Cites Astronomical Cost and Anti-Planet-Destroying Policies
It is official: the United States government will not build an orbital battle-station with planet destroying capabilities, according to an official posting by the White House Office Space and Science Budget Chief Paul Shawcross.
Last November, Star Wars fans filed a petition asking the White House to “secure resources and funding, and being construction of a Death Star by 2016,” citing national defense, construction, and job creation as major benefits. The Death Star is the moon-sized, planet-destroying space station that serves as the major source of drama in the conclusion of the popular film Star Wars.
The clever petitioners used the Obama White House’s “We the People” online petition tool. To encourage public engagement in presidential policy, the Obama administration’s policy has been to respond to any petition that successfully secures at least 25,000 signatures. With 34,400 as of this writing, the Death Star petition was entitled to a response.
Fiction aside, Shawcross used the opportunity not just to reiterate the Administration’s anti-planet destroying policies, but also to do some clever advocacy for public innovation investments by showing off some of the United States’ very real, and very impressive accomplishments in science, technology, and engineering. Shawcross writes:
Look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! 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.
The International Space Station is a dedicated U.S. National Lab, built and operated jointly by more than a dozen countries, and is home to countless science research experiments in astrobiology, life science, physical science, materials science, space weather, meteorology, and other fields.
Shawcross went on to discuss the two roving robot science labs (another allusion to Star Wars characters R2D2 and C3PO) that the U.S. has successfully landed on Mars, floating robot space assistants, two American spacecraft currently leaving the Solar System, and other American innovations.
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.
Kudos to an administration official with both a sense of humor and a healthy sense of opportunism for turning a prank into an opportunity to educate the public about the significance of our public investments in science, engineering and innovation. You can read the full, Star Wars Easter egg-laden petition response below:
Official White House Response to: “Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.”
This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For
By Paul Shawcross
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
- 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?
However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! 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. The Space Station has six astronauts — American, Russian, and Canadian — living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs — one wielding a laser — roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo — and soon, crew — to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.
Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
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.
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. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things. He
If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget
Sean Pool is the Managing Editor of Science Progress. Image and caption courtesy Death Star PR.
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