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Star Wars Fans to NASA: Build a Hyperdrive

Published by Matt on Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:10 am via: NASA
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It’s not easy to get to a galaxy far, far away using engines powered by just liquid hydrogen and oxygen. So, NASA should develop a hyperdrive that would power astronauts through the cosmos at light speed, “Star Wars” makers and fans advised agency representatives Aug. 13 during the movie franchise’s Celebration V in Orlando, Fla.

Darth Vader came by the NASA and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex booths during Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, Fla. Photo credit: NASA/Gianni Woods

Darth Vader came by the NASA and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex booths during Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, Fla. Photo credit: NASA/Gianni Woods

“The ultimate would be being able to travel faster than the speed of light and the whole hyperspace business that science fiction writers have been writing about because the idea of spending six months traveling to Mars doesn’t seem very exciting,” said Gary Kurtz, producer of the original “Star Wars” 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. “I think it is logical to assume that we are not the only sentient beings in the galaxies, although we’d probably like to think we are.”

Many compare the quest to explore space with previous drives to explore mysterious places on Earth, including the ocean depths.

“Anything that’s unknown, I think it drives us,” said reality TV star and “Star Wars” fan Adrianne Curry. “I think because, number one, probably everybody not wanting to feel alone in the universe. I think it would be spectacular if we found even the most microscopic of living organisms somewhere else. There’s way too much universe for it to just be us.”

The push to invent some superfast engine would have obvious payoffs, according to the fans.

“I would like to see NASA work on ways to get to the different planets because when I watch ‘Star Wars,’ I enjoy that they get to go to different worlds and if NASA could do that, that’d be fantastic,” said Ben Jones, who dressed as a Mandalorian commando for the convention.

The impact of discovery would continue to reach deep into human spirits, too, they said.

If NASA invents a hyper drive, these guys have volunteered to fly it throughout the galaxy. Photo credit: NASA/Gianni Woods

If NASA invents a hyper drive, these guys have volunteered to fly it throughout the galaxy. Photo credit: NASA/Gianni Woods

“That way we can get out and see things,” said Jack Wishart, a private pilot and “Star Wars” enthusiast. “We’re a small part of the huge universe.”

Of course, “Star Wars” fans aren’t the only ones who’d like to see a way to move around space quickly. Some of the space agency’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 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.

So, if people can travel to distant worlds, what kind of life forms should they search for?

“As long as we stay away from anything related to Jar Jar Binks, I’m good,” joked Nicole Sampson, a “Star Wars” fan inspired to dress as Princess Leia for the convention.

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, explaining that some of the dialogue heard in the movies was modeled on the countdown commentary from NASA launches. Also, some of the conceptual artists who worked on the film more than 30 years ago came from NASA’s own artist ranks.

“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,” Kurtz said.

“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,” Tellado said.

“The imaginative thing about films is that they say, ‘Yes, you can have a hover car, you can have a lightsaber,” Daniels said. “Really art can inspire science and vice versa. Always there are great scientific minds who come up with things I never knew I wanted, and then I do.”

While scientists around the world navigate into the future, the current thundering rockets still retain an awe-inspiring ability.

“I saw my first shuttle launch a few months ago and I really wish that was me doing it, Wishart said. “It’s amazing how we can launch something and go into space like that.”

There are some down-to-Earth Star Wars technologies fans would like to see, as well. Their wish list ranges from a healing substance like the “Star Wars” hero Luke Skywalker floated in, to the landspeeders and high-flying cars that don’t require roads, 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.”

Ten-year-old Brandon had a simple request for the immediate future: “A robot doing my homework.”

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