The empire writes back

US won’t build a ‘death star’

In marvelously geeky response to popular online petition, official says administration ‘does not support blowing up planets’

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

(photo credit: courtesy Lucasfilm)
(photo credit: courtesy Lucasfilm)

NEW YORK — The White House announced over the weekend — we kid you not — that it would not be building a “death star” reminiscent of the space-borne, planet-sized laser weapon used by “Star Wars” super-villain Darth Vader to destroy planets.

“The Administration does not support blowing up planets,” said Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, in response to a popular petition on the White House website.

The cost would also be prohibitive at an estimated $850 quadrillion, Shawcross added.

The official statement is part of the White House’s “We the People” project, a website at that allows Americans to submit and sign petitions. Any petition that garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days will get an official response, the website promises.

The Death Star petition has garnered 34,435 signatures. It calls on the US government “to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.”

Such a “space-superiority platform” will “spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense,” the petition reads.

In a tongue-in-cheek response, Shawcross explained that the White House shares the petitioners’ “desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon.”

“The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it,” he wrote.

Shawcross used the response as an opportunity to raise awareness about the United States’ existing space program.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.”

“The United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” Shawcross joked, a reference to a line from a “Star Wars” movie that mistakenly used the parsec, a measure of distance, as a measure of time. But “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.”

Shawcross concluded with a call to pursue science-related education. “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,” he wrote.

The White House response sparked an explosion of delight among “Star Wars” fans and other science fiction and space geeks over the weekend. It was covered in major US papers and on countless blogs.

“So we’re not getting a Death Star,” lamented one blog headline, “but we can confirm we have the geekiest Administration in history.”

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