Apparently, it’s all about mining asteroids and using the material to construct the Death Star in orbit.
In a video appearing on Wired, Brian Muirhead, the chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, speaks on the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The asteroid redirect mission will be examining the possibility of asteroid mining in orbit. The eventual result of the mission will be capture a boulder with a specifically designed probe and carry it into lunar orbit where groups of astronauts can visit to mine asteroid materials. Ideally, this mission will take place in 2023.
Muirhead’s research won’t exactly teach us how to build a Death Star in orbit, but it may give us insight as to how we can build a megastructure around our own planet. Watch below as he breaks down the science behind asteroid mining and building such a massive structure:
The Death Star has a radius of 60 kilometers (37 miles), this corresponds to a total volume of 904,000 cubic kilometers (217,000 cubic miles) and has an estimated mass of 190 trillion tonnes (according to Wookiepedia). The cost of sending items into space is roughly $20,000 per kilogram, this means that assembling the Death Star would cost us approximately 40,000 billion billion dollars; a number that dwarfs planet earth’s economy by a factor of a billion.
The asteroid redirect mission will capture a space rock that weighs 450,000 kilograms or 500 tons, and will cost approximately $2.6 billion. At this scale, you can see how costly it would be to build a Death Star that weighs over 190 trillion tonnes.
We may not see a Death Star around our planet any time soon, but thanks to the Asteroid Redirect Mission, we might be fortunate to lay the groundwork for the ability to harness materials in space, the first step to building structures in orbit.