Moisture Vaporators, Death Star Construction and Other Real Star Wars Tech

X-wing fighter flies by Earth? Actually, it is the ATV2 (Johannes Kepler) as it departs the ISS in 2011. Credit: NASA/Ron Garan

Remember that time an X-Wing fighter flew past the International Space Station? Or when R2D2 saved the ISS crew?OK, yeah, those things didn’t really happen, but since the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977, there has been a lot of technology developed that mimics the science and tech from the sci-fi blockbuster films. Of course, we now have real robots in space (Robonaut), drones are now everyday items, there are actual holograms (Voxiebox and Fairy Lights) and DARPA has been developing prosthetic limbs that Luke Skywalker would totally use, called the Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET). Plus, Boeing is building blaster guns that will use “pew-pew” sound effects from Star Wars. Seriously. The lasers are silent, and so they need to add sound to know for sure they’ve been fired.Since we all certainly have Star Wars on the brain today (The Force Awakens opens tonight), let’s take a look at a few recent space-related developments that hint of inspiration from the movies: ESA has announced some of the instruments that will be on board the 2018 ExoMars rover. One of them will work akin to the Skywalkers’ moisture vaporators on Tatooine. The Habitability, Brine Irradiation and Temperature package (HABIT) will will investigate the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere of Mars. According to one of the researchers leading the instrument, this proof-of-concept instrument will take water out of the atmosphere to produce liquid water. If it works, it could be used to create water for future astronauts on Mars. And if it works really well, it could work on a larger scale to support Mars exploration… perhaps making enough water to allow for farming.“HABIT can be easily adapted —> Read More