By Gary Michael Church
The first Star Wars movie I watched was the second in the series, The Empire Strikes Back. I was in Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in the U.S. Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma at the time and sat alone in a nearly empty movie theater. I was genuinely surprised who Luke’s father was. As it turned out it was the only movie of the franchise I liked. Only recently have I been reading about the real Star Wars program taking place at exactly the same time during the Reagan Years and the applications of this “black” technology for real space travel. While the Star Wars franchise is usually identified as being in the genre of sci-fi called “Space Opera”, I must disagree. As a young boy in the mid 1960’s, one Christmas morning I was presented with a boxed set of the Lensman series. Now THAT was Space Opera. The only real successor to E.E. Doc Smith in my opinion is David Weber with his Honor Harrington series and collaborations with Steve White. We love our Honor. Interestingly, Reagan’s Star Wars and Weber’s Honor-at-war both rely on a fictitious weapon called the bomb-pumped X-ray laser. How much money was pumped into the bomb-pumped laser program is classified but it was probably a huge fortune considering the concept could not be made to work and finally had to be abandoned. But the data concerning directed energy weapons remains and may well be worth every penny if it is ever applied to space travel. With most of the energy from an H-bomb focused in one direction the ability to incandesce a slug of propellent into a high speed plasma jet is created. This plasma jet technique is presently the only way to push a multi-thousand ton spaceship around the solar system and nothing better is likely to to be devised anytime soon. There is certainly no lack of plutonium for such missions.
If the movie Star Wars was remade as hard sci-fi, not much of the original imagery would remain. No light sabers, no faster than light jumps into hyper space, no alien musicians. It would take place in this solar system and the stand-ins for other worlds would be the artificial hollow moons envisioned by Bernal and O’Neill. The only human settlements on the moons of the gas giants would be under the ice in the subsurface oceans. That would make them submarine movies. These moons are where any aliens will be found and the most intelligent of them most likely octopus or squid-like in nature. Smaller spacecraft in the class of the Millennium Falcon would use beam propulsion and would thus be dependent on energy transmitted by an antennae from a power station for any dramatic escapes. As for the “droids”, it is hard to imagine such artificially intelligent devices being constructed for comedic relief. In fact, such machines are presently a great worry to scientists and despite repeated warnings the robot warrior is gestating in research establishments of all the major powers. In space, the more likely robot scenario is the surrogate, the android inhabited by way of telepresence while the human operator is shielded from cosmic radiation behind the prerequisite 14 feet of water. The only really remarkable scene in Star Wars is the lifepod carrying the droids spiraling away from the captured Starship. It is notable because an artificial gravity system would generate the same slowly spinning field of stars. Space travelers will view such a rotating Starscape through the transparent mass of a water shield. The giant space wedgie star destroyers would instead be massive discs using H-bombs for propulsion. The jets of high speed plasma pushing these slowly spinning discs around the solar system will in large measure use Ronald Reagan’s failed Strategic Defense Initiative data to make Star Wars real.