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Building a Death Star?

Written by Adam Savage in category 
December 11, 2015

Star Wars mania is everywhere as people prepare for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first new Star Wars made since 1983 (prequels? what prequels? I know nothing any Star Wars prequels. (Sticks fingers in ears) LA la la la la la I can’t hear you)).

Those rocket engineers over at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, specifically Chief Engineer Brian Muirhead, have gotten in on the fun Spoke with Wired magazine in the video below about how to build a Death Star. The short version is the Empire was stupid (nothing new see Return of the Jedi). In this case they were stupid for building the whole Death Star from scratch in space. Instead they should have grabbed an asteroid to have access to materials and elements. Now Moorhead knows a thing or three about asteroids as he working on NASA’s Astroid Redirect Mission (which is pretty sic-fi itself when he explains it). 

Muirhead is not the first to speculate on what it would take to build a real life Death Star. In 2012 Lehigh University students figured it would take $8100000000000.00 (8.1 quadrillion dollars, not a typo) to build an all steel Death Star. This is 13000 time the GDP for the entire planet, so don’t expect a Death Star to replace the moon anytime soon.  By basing construction on asteroid the cost plummets. According to the Lehigh nerds (all Lehigh students are nerds) the Earth has enough steel to make 2 billion Death Stars, but it would still need to be transported to space a huge factor in the cost. While no one has worked out the numbers for the asteroid method, it couldn’t cost more than $10.50 right? So Death Star by next week right?

Not so fast. A further impediment is the speed of steel production regardless of it being mined from the Earth or an asteroid. According to the Lehigh Students (nerds), at today’s rate of production the steel needed to build the Death Star, which has a circumference of 140km (or 87 miles), would take 833315 years to produce. So we should probably start now.


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