Space

Star Wars and Lockheed Martin: May the 4th Be With You

Over forty years ago the first Star Wars movie took the universe by solar storm and filled our minds with tales of intergalactic travel, exoplanets and galaxies far, far away.

As it turns out, that world where science meets fiction isn’t so far off of from today’s reality. Here are five Star Wars technologies that bear striking similarities to what we’re doing in space today:

Mars InSight
Like R2-D2, C3PO and BB-8, NASA’s InSight Mars robotic lander leads the way for humans as we learn more about the Red Planet. Launching to Mars on May 5 and landing in November, the robotic lander has the important mission of determining the size, composition and state of the core of Mars. Analyzing the inside of this planet will not only help us understand the formation of other rocky planets, like Earth, but will help scientists and engineers navigate the first human mission to Mars. 
MBC

As the vehicle of choice for Han Solo and Chewbacca, the Millennium Falcon whisks its passengers through space at faster-than-light speeds, serving as the quintessential space transport vehicle.

While we haven’t configured a hyper-drive setting on Orion, yet, this multi-purpose crew capsule for NASA is shaping up to be the main deep space transport vehicle of the future. It’s already 80 percent human-rated, which means that the day we visit our own Jakku – Mars – is closer than we think.

Looking ahead, we’re envisioning Mars Base Camp – an orbiting outpost around Mars in the 2030s, driven by Orion. Just picture it – humans living and studying the Red Planet from a habitat mere miles above the surface. Certainly a scene that harkens back to George Lucas’ masterpiece, it is.

planets

Star Wars is chock-full of exoplanets, yet when the first film was released in 1977, the first exoplanet had not yet been discovered. In the years since, telescopes have been busy hunting these planets outside our solar system. Recently, Spitzer Space Telescope, built and operated by Lockheed Martin for NASA, spotted the first known system of seven Earth-like planets around a single star. The UK Infrared Telescope, which Lockheed Martin operated in partnership with two universities, also played a key role in the discovery.

Our experience designing telescopes like Spitzer and Hubble helps us push the boundaries of what we see in our universe. Now, we’re focusing on the eyes of the next major telescopes – having built the camera for James Webb and bidding on optics for Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) – and even exploring an option to shrink the telescope as we know it.  

lasers

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t – at least once in their life – taken an empty roll of wrapping paper and re-created the infamous lightsaber battle between Luke and Darth Vader.

Lockheed Martin is developing a similar kind of directed energy: laser weapon systems. These systems, like ATHENA, offer us speed-of-light protection against smaller incoming threats.

As the technology evolves, it will be able to defend against larger threats from greater distances…just in case the Empire decides to strike back, again.

halography

"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope.”

A hologram of Princess Leia delivered this message, and in our universe, we also use holograms to discern valuable information. We use them for imaging and sensing in the world of defense to see what’s approaching – like an ominous Death Star, for instance.

Our Advanced Technology Center is fine-tuning digital holography, a variant of traditional holographic recording. Instead of recording the image on a photographic plate, digital holographs are recorded on a sensor array within a camera – enabling quick correction of any blurry images that may indicate misinformation about a target.

When it was first revealed to the world, the universe depicted in Star Wars seemed like a distant reality. As the years go by and the movies – along with our technology – evolve, the paths of science and science fiction inevitably inch closer together, until they one day meet.