In case you've ever wanted to build your own Death Star, NASA's Brian Muirhead, chief engineer at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains that the best way to begin construction on such a massive space station is to begin with an object already in space, such as an asteroid.
In a video posted by Wired, Muirhead explains that the Galactic Empire did things the hard way when it created the Death Star, by just "launching a bunch of stuff off of a planet." Instead, Muirhead explains that using an asteroid as the basis for the Death Star would make more sense.
"It could provide the metals," says Muirhead. "You have organic compounds, you have water — all the building blocks you would need to build your family Death Star."
In the universe of Star Wars, the Death Star is both a mobile space station and a weapon capable of taking out planets. About the same size as a small moon, it serves as a base of operations for countless Imperial officers, as well as Darth Vader.
In the video, Muirhead also mentions NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission, one of the projects he's currently working on. In that mission, astronauts will land a vehicle on an asteroid, collect a piece of that asteroid and then redirect it into an orbit around Earth's moon. While there, astronauts will collect samples of the asteroid's surface for later analysis. Muirhead states that this should happen in the year 2023.
Muirhead also touches upon a scene from Star Wars where Princess Leia, Han Solo and friends fly through an asteroid field to escape Empire spacecraft that's chasing them.
"The ability to sense that something's ahead of you and to be able to react so quickly, that's a hard problem," says Muirhead. "Flying quickly through an asteroid field is a problem. Flying more slowly through an asteroid field, yes, you can absolutely do that."
Muirhead explains that this is what NASA's Dawn spacecraft is doing now, by slowly flying through the main asteroid belt.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on Dec. 18.