A petition launched on whitehouse.gov to begin the process of designing and constructing a Death Star for the US has received enough signatures to require an official response from the White House this week. While it’s pretty clear that an actual Death Star is a far-fetched idea, the fact that enough signatures were reached to exceed that 25,000 goal is a fairly interesting development.
Does the US really need a Death Star, though? I’m sure it would come in handy should an alien invasion threaten our very well being, but it isn’t exactly a good use of resources when we haven’t even reached Mars with a manned flight as of yet.
NASA’s current budget is less than one-half of a percent of our current tax revenue as a nation. It’s actually a pretty laughable figure truth be told, and for me, my tax dollars would be much better spent developing the technology we need to reach further into the cosmos.
Something as large as the Death Star would likely have an impact on our global ecosystem. Everything with mass has some measure of gravitational pull. Something as large as a Death Star would likely throw off the tidal forces, disrupt the Moon’s natural orbit, and cause some loss of mass here on Earth as we mine and contribute materials to the project.
Before I get into numbers, I’m going to state for the record that I’m no astrophysicist. I don’t have any advanced knowledge of actual physics or math behind gravity. What I do have is a general grasp on science fiction and made up science to support holes in the fiction’s understanding of what’s actually possible.
How Big is the Death Star and Where Would You Put It?
The first Death Star is estimated to be around 161 kilometers in diameter. When compared to our moon, which has a diameter of roughly 3,474 kilometers, it’s a pretty small undertaking. If, however, the petition means to build the second Death Star, the diameter increases to anywhere from 160-900 kilometers. That’s a pretty significant range, but hey… it’s fiction!
Even at 1/21 the size of our Moon, the Death Star would have a significant impact on our world. It couldn’t exactly sit in low-Earth orbit, and the satellite altitudes would be endangered by such a giant object. Oh, and low-Earth orbit (LEO) is a range that exists between 160 kilometers and 2,000 kilometers above the surface of the Earth at various levels.
The International Space Station, for example, sits between 320 and 400 kilometers over the Earth. If you sat the Death Star at that distance, you’d be able to see it quite clearly with your naked eyes. It would even cast a shadow and may even eclipse the Sun as it passes. It’s roughly the diameter of a city, after all.
How Much Would a Death Star Cost?
Given the size and capabilities of a fully operational battle station, the costs involved with building an actual Death Star would exceed the national budget by more than 1,000,000 times. Consider the costs involved with rebuilding the entire city of New York from scratch and multiply it by as many times as it would take to fit it inside the Death star a half dozen times, launch it into LEO at $10,000/lb., and man it with 261,000 trained employees.
Needless to say, a Death Star doesn’t exactly fit in our budget.
Sorry to shoot down this great idea, but I think those signatures would have been much better spent on the petition to double NASA’s budget. That petition isn’t even close to the 25,000 signatures it needs to warrant an official response from the White House.