NASA and Star Wars: The Connections Are Strong in This One


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We Actually Do Have the Droids You’re Looking For

NASA has robots roving and exploring all over the solar system, but it's our own “R2” that's most likely to resonate with Star Wars fans. Robonaut 2, launched in 2011, is working along side humans on board the International Space Station, and may eventually help with spacewalks too dangerous for humans. Incidentally, an earlier version of Robonaut bore a strong “facial” resemblance to enigmatic bounty hunter Boba Fett.

NASA2.JPG
NASA's own "R2," Robonaut 2, at work on board the International Space Station
Credits: NASA

Another "droid" seen on the space station was directly inspired by the saga. In 1999, then Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor David Miller, now NASA's Chief Technologist, showed the original 1977 Star Wars to his students on their first day of class. After the scene where hero Luke Skywalker learns lightsaber skills by sparring with a floating droid “remotes” on the Millennium Falcon, Miller stood up and pointed: "I want you to build me some of those."

The result was "SPHERES," or Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites.  Originally designed to test spacecraft rendezvous and docking maneuvers, the bowling-ball size mini-satellites can now be powered by smart phones.

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