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


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Space Screening, ‘TIE’-ins, Tatooine and The Droids You’re Looking For

NASA astronauts “use the force” every time they launch … from a certain point of view. We have real-world droids and ion engines. We’ve seen dual-sun planets like Tatooine and a moon that eerily resembles the Death Star. And with all the excitement around the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Force will soon be felt 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. Disney is sending up the new film so the astronauts can watch in orbit, and the station's commander, Scott Kelly, can hardly wait:

If you're looking to be a "sky walker" yourself someday, NASA is now taking astronaut applications and we're offering a list of Star Wars-related reasons you should apply. Recently returned station astronaut Kjell Lindgren is such a fan that he posed with his station crewmates in a Jedi-themed mission poster and talked to StarWars.com about it.  Shortly before leaving the station, Lindgren tweeted about the uncanny resemblance of the station’s cupola to the cockpit of an Imperial TIE Fighter:

That's not the first connection we've noticed. When space shuttle Atlantis left the International Space Station after 2007’s STS-117 mission, it caught a view of the station that looked to some like a TIE fighter giving chase:

The "TIE-ins" go beyond casual resemblance to real engineering. NASA already uses actual ion engines ("TIE" stands for "Twin Ion Engines") on spacecraft like Dawn, currently orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres. In fact, Dawn goes one better with three ion engines. The next generation of this engine is being considered for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a stepping stone on NASA's Journey to Mars.
 
NASA4.JPG
 
This image shows a cutting-edge solar-electric propulsion thruster in development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., that uses xenon ions for propulsion. An earlier version of this solar-electric propulsion engine has been flying on NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid belt.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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