“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced,” said Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi as the planet Alderaan was blown to smithereens by the Imperial superweapon in the classic 1977 movie “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” But now, Alderaan is safe (from the current administration at least); the White House has decided not to build a planet-killing Death Star of their own, despite a public appeal to the contrary.
In a wonderful White House statement titled “This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For,” Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, responded to a petition submitted to the White House’s “We the People” website. The petition was created on Nov. 14, 2012, urging the President to “secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.”
With the help of a variety of social media platforms the petition gained traction, garnering 34,435 signatures from individuals that have obviously gone to the Dark Side. Any petition exceeding 25,000 signatures requires an official response from the government. So, for the case of the Death Star, here it is.
Citing budgetary constraints, planet conservation and fundamental design flaws with the original design, Shawcross extinguished any hope that such a project will ever see the light of day, let alone a Rebel assault fleet. And besides, “the Administration does not support blowing up planets,” he points out. (To which I ask, what about Pluto?)
Read the full White House response, it’s pure squeezed awesomejuice:
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:
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.
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.
Image credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.