While the US government rejected a petition to construct a Death Star by 2016, a group of researchers are currently designing a machine with similarly destructive capacities.It’s called the Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation: the DE-STAR. The team for this tantalizing project is composed of Gary B. Hughes, a researcher from CalPoly San Luis Obispo; Philip M. Lubin, a physicist from UC Santa Barbara; and a group of undergrads. While they’re clearly Star Wars fans, the team members are also very serious about the feasibility of and need for this intimidating technology. Since we currently have no obvious method for dealing with the threat of massive space rocks slamming into our planet, the DE-STAR could change that–by blowing up or deflecting asteroids with its giant solar-powered lasers. According to the team, the DE-STAR could take out an asteroid 10 times larger than 2012 DA14, which buzzed by Earth this month, using 100 gigawatts of power.
Scaling seems to be the challenge ahead to really construct a DE-STAR (smaller models would be much easier to build, of course) but the researchers say this isn’t some sci-fi fantasy of the far off future. We’ve got the basic technology to create a Death Star-like system right now, which can protect worlds rather than destroy them.
The DE-STAR wouldn’t just be a Star Wars reminiscent system floating in space until doomsday summons its lasers into action. The project team claims the system may also function as a spacecraft propulsion system, and could power up machines that analyze the composition of asteroids or those that are off exploring other planets.
Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any near-Earth space rocks threatening us right now. But with the vague possibility one could hit us someday, perhaps its not such a bad idea to prepare for the worst with a mighty DE-STAR to deflect the damage.