The White House has rejected a proposal to build a Death Star, saying that in addition to its prohibitive construction costs, the current administration does not advocate destroying other planets.
Today's lighthearted official statement came in response to a petition posted in November to the White House's We The People platform that called for the administration to begin construction of a moon-size military battlestation armed with a planet-destroying superlaser by 2016. The petition, which attracted well more than the minimum 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the White House, suggested that such a project could give the nation's economy a much-needed boost:
By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.
However, in a playful, "Star Wars"-inspired response titled "This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For," Paul Shawcross, the chief of the science and space branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, explains that construction of the universe's ultimate weapon would cost $850 quadrillion ($850,000,000,000,000,000). The administration also said it was reluctant to spend such an uncountable amount on "a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship."
Shawcross also points out that the U.S. is a participant in the International Space Station ("that's no moon, it's a Space Station!" he writes):
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. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. 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.
Shawcross also points out that exploration of space is no longer a government-exclusive industry and that private companies are already ferrying cargo into space under NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (aka C3PO). He also offered a reminder of some of the space-exploration projects currently under way or on the drawing board.
Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, 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 closes the administration's response with a serious note encouraging students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, or math-related fields and highlighting the science fairs and White House astronomy sessions initiated by the Obama Administration.
"If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us!" Shwacross writes. "Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force."