As the 40 years of Star Wars Celebrations started with panache, several stars and filmmakers behind the making of the much adored saga gathered to ring in the festival. A journey that commenced almost four decades ago introduced Jedi knights, droids, lighsabers, Wookies and Force to the world enveloping it with absolute sci-fi entertainment.
The journey so far:
Released in 1977, the first star war space opera, The Empire Strikes Back that became an instant hit was made with a relatively low budget of around $11million. The movie procreated an empire of pop-culture including prequels, sequels, comics, video games, radio and television series. Even after 40 years, the theatrical epic continues to win hearts of its fan club. The Star Wars franchise also relayed its effect on space technology ever since its popularity on Earth. Today, there is a franchise estimated to have more than $7.5 billion at the worldwide box office.
This stellar journey of the film series has been marked by Disney at some of its outlets making it prominent with events including defence training against storm troopers, Star Wars trivia game and Millennium Falcon flight training. Also the Vanity Fair magazine has published four special summer editions celebrating the milestone by featuring the late actress Carrie Fisher appearing on one of its covers.
In the Last Jedi, Fisher’s retrospective role as General Leia Organa, she has been portrayed as regally posing in her graceful dark outfit. The other three covers include cast members Adam Driver, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill as costumed for an exclusive photoshoot. The next big film in series, Star Wars: Episode VIII- the Last Jedi is due for its release in December this year.
How space fantasy meets factual intergalactic missions:
The Star Wars franchise led to a popular culture where references, phrases and ideas also became eminent in the science and technology vernacular. President Ronald Reagan in 1983 proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative slotted to use the ground and space bound lasers, particle beams, missiles and other weaponry to help safeguard America from attacks by nuclear missiles.
This was referred to as “Star Wars” by several critics. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Earth and space based laser-systems had the potential to shoot down missiles even before they reached their target. The proposal also mentioned surface-to-air missiles positioned strategically around locations such as the ICMB silos. This program furthered development of instruments like the Extended Range Interceptor which successfully caught a flying missile in testing in 1987. The US Army too had a fruitful hit to kill target on its fourth try with a Minuteman missile in 1984.
According to the Cold War Museum, though the program was abandoned eventually, there were concerns regarding it violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that was a part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Dearth of budget and lack of performance caused closing of the program despite spending $30 billion.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum held an exhibition called the “Star Wars: The Magic of the Myth” showcased original production models, characters, costumes including props from the first 3 Star Wars films. In October 2007, NASA launched a space shuttle that carried an original lightsaber into the orbit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise.
They used the prop handle that had been used as Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in Return of the Jedi. The on-ground ceremonies enclosed it’s handover to NASA that included appearances by the Imperial storm troopers and Chewbacca. The spacecraft landed back on Earth on 7th November 2007 and was returned to its owner George Lucas. Deriving from Millennium Falcon of Star Wars series, Elon Musk’s company Space X successfully launched its spaceship named as Falcon 1. Success of Falcon 1 steered the fabrication of the spacecraft’s updated versions that later came to be known as the Falcon family of Space-rockets. Currently, Falcon 9 has replaced Falcon 1.
The ‘Death Star’ closely resembled close-up images of Saturn’s moon Mimas with its distinctive circle on one side of its spherical shape. In reality, the moons that have such large circles exhibit remnants of a giant asteroid thrashing into the surface to leave behind a crater formation. While speaking of the moon Iapetus which too orbits around the ringed planet, in 2015 NASA referred to Star Wars stating that “The moon Iapetus, like the ‘force’ in Star Wars, has both a light side and a dark side.”
Interestingly, Star Wars has frequently been referenced to planets with two Suns, similar to Tatooine which is Luke’s home planet. Most planets that orbit two stars are giant gas hulks. However, a handful of planets similar to our own planet have been discovered, such as the Kepler 16b, Kepler -34b, Kepler 35b. A study conducted by the University of Utah in 2015 suggested that these kinds of planets could be more common that believed. Simulations revealed the possibility of ‘planetesimals’ (precursors to planets) to “safely orbit in an oval around two stars” without essentially crashing into one another.
Real life droids and robots have been densely traversing the International Space Station (ISS) in the 21st Century. NASA’s humanoid, “Robonaut 2” is also referred to as R2. Though still under testing, R2 is intended to complete simple scientific experiments by flipping switches so as to enable scientists with buffer time for taking up significantly complicated things. NASA also envisions to position robots in space to replace astronauts and take up risky spacewalks. A Japanese childlike robot named Kirobo in 2013 had a chat with ISS Commander Koichi Wakata about its journey into the outer realm.
The technology used in Empire’s TIE fighter spacecraft that seem to have solar panels on their outer hulls is also used by NASA for many of its Mars missions as well as at the ISS. Solar panels are useful on spacecraft, especially those closer to the sun as opposed to those farther away which need nuclear power. Lasers are quite a favourite battle weapon in Star Wars and NASA has been testing use of high speed communications between space and Earth. For instance, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter probe has tested a laser system from the Moon to receive Mona Lisa’s picture sent from the Earth. The space giant has also been discussing conducting more laser tests from ISS to increase communication channels from the revolving complex.
As one of the most beloved franchises turns 40, we wish the Star Wars family a sparkling voyage ahead!
Article by Rochita.