When filmgoers first experienced the sight of the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope, there was no doubt that it would become a cultural meme and a hit for anyone who enjoys discussing outer space technology. Equipped with turbo lasers, tractor beams, battle station trenches and a starfighter fleet, the Death Star is engineered to withstand the deadliest of space battles. As has happened before in the world of technology, what started off as science-fiction entertainment could possibly become a blueprint for futuristic space station ideas quite distant from now.
From the initial designs and blueprints, to engineering and producing laser weapons, all the way to maintenance for needs and wants, the costs and funding of the Death Star would be explicitly high. Academic faculty calculated that the Death Star would take 800,000 years and USD 852 quadrillion to build in the real-world environment. Considering how many resources would need to be pooled in the process (as well as the mere replacement of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]’s International Space Station), math professors like Alexander Barnett of Dartmouth University estimated that it would cost more than £6 octillion British pounds to maintain operations each day. Water, electricity and power, food, and other critical needs would have to be addressed way ahead of time. These figures alone are scary enough to dissuade enthusiasts and promoters of such ideas. With such a high price tag, the Death Star is bound to also have its inner developments debated, as the cost for funding of military operations and personnel (e.g., stormtroopers and Imperial officers) would be tremendous, not to mention advanced weapons and laser designs that will take various decades to explore and master within the scientific community prior to public use.
In the name of intergalactic law
The space race of this century has evolved since the days of the Cold War of the 20th century. Long after the United States and the former Soviet Union desired to create advanced space technology, scientists and researchers fathomed what would happen if we journeyed to other planets or discovered new weapons technology capable of annihilation, and we have begun to see it manifest already due to private and public sector harmony. Space exploration has become a popular reason for countries to invest and fund new programs that could help them achieve supremacy globally, and while space laws are mostly non-existent due to the infinite realms of space, competitive nations will want to take advantage of superweapons like the Death Star to maintain strong diplomacy or aggression against other nations.
The United Nations (UN) does acknowledge special treaty principles to support outer space governance, but it does not define the future of space-related activities, especially when there is no clear way to stop governments from creating weapons for violence. That said, declarations were put in place back in the late 1960s to provide oversight for any entity desiring to conduct work in such territory. The Outer Space Treaty was agreed to and approved by the UN General Assembly as a basic legal framework for issues such as exploration benefits, non-subjected national appropriation by sovereign claims, prohibition of nuclear weapons or mass destruction in orbit, and other state and non-state regulations.
Where space defence has become a norm for progression on the world stage, space policy is still difficult to identify and work with, and as such we see patterns where countries will desire to compete to claim hegemony. It is interesting to note that once upon a time, the Soviets had built a covert space station known as Almaz, which was “equipped with a rapid-fire cannon.” U.S. officials attempted to build a counterpart to it, but failed to get it off the ground and subsequently was a secretive failure (partly due to budget concerns). In conclusion, the Soviet Union was deemed “the first nation to weaponize an orbiting spacecraft.”
With the introduction of the Death Star in a very far-from-now future, we may see competition grow to include space laws that will define borders and barriers between nations and actors of all kinds. Since the Death Star would act as a replacement to NASA’s previous technology (if NASA is still around centuries from now), it would be easy to define boundaries for countries and laws that must be followed. A “space protocol” may exist should the object come to fruition, and that means governance for those who are residing in the Death Star.
A space station built on hope, or a tongue-in-cheek proposal?
There are critics on both sides of the table when discussing the Death Star’s chances of coming to life from the big screen. Those who favour the development and design of the object would argue that it is important to consider such complex projects, given that we already have competitive interests in the space race. The need to have the United States and Europe lead humans to safety should global disasters occur is imperative for survival in the future. Those at the opposing end of the spectrum may argue that the desire to build a Death Star is definitely not a high priority, nor is it even feasible in this lifetime, or the next one. The odds of building such objects in outer space seem almost impossible, due to the dual-pronged hurdle of funding from expensive sources and the fact that astronauts already find it hard to manage outer space exploration. Combining that with the ridiculously large infrastructure that would need to be supported day and night, such efforts by countries to keep up with the technology would take decades to balance out. In line with these arguments, sceptics would believe that if we cannot solve our own physical problems here on Earth, how would we be able to complete our objectives out in space? Since there is already much to still explore in colonizing other planets, the time that would need to be set aside for the Death Star would take almost all human labour investment to even begin with.
On the contrary, it is somewhat possible for civilization to consider Death Star attributes for research and development, since the many nations of our planet have already funded advanced space activities for the future. Whether it is nuclear missiles or space shuttles, we seek to redefine ourselves in an era that may see a new generation of hope, although the obstacles of the scientific community will loom in every corner. Separating realms of fiction from non-fiction, the Death Star will always be a galactic conquest worth considering, but scepticism behind its input and output will remain so long as political anxiety and economic consumerism exist. Those who want to go further and contend about the Death Star’s specifics would even point out that laser weapons used in popular culture films do not accurately represent the real world. In fact, Raychelle Burks, an assistant chemistry professor at St. Edward’s University in Texas, confirmed that light beams from the Death Star used in destroying other planets simply does not work that way in reality. Because “individual beams would just pass by each other and keep going in their own directions instead of converging”, we are too far from any blueprint that can command something of that nature. What we see and hear in popular culture is too utopian and does not reflect our contemporary timeline because most of this is just Hollywood’s work of art. Until then, it is perfectly acceptable for families in California to build a 23-foot Death Star on their rooftops.
Image via Flickr
 Kiebus, M., “The Death Star would take 800,000 years and $852 quadrillion to build”, Death and Taxes, 20 Feb 2012, http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/178931/the-death-star-would-take-over-800000-years-and-852-quadrillion-to-build/ .
 Fawcett, K., “It Would Cost £6.2 Octillion to Operate the Death Star Each Day”, Mental Floss, 30 Nov 2016, http://mentalfloss.com/article/89311/it-would-cost-ps62-octillion-operate-death-star-each-day.
 “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html.
 Bamford, J., “Hello, Death Star: Russia Had a Secret Cold War Space Station Equipped with Cannons”, Foreign Policy, 14 Dec 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/12/14/spooks-in-space-race-death-star-nasa-apollo-intelligence-russia-china/.
 Howell, E., “Could We Build a Real-Life Death Star?”, Space.com, 14 Dec 2016, http://www.space.com/35020-could-we-build-a-real-death-star.html.