A Death Star is a fictional space station and superweapon appearing in the Star Wars movies and expanded universe created by George Lucas. It is capable of destroying an entire planet with its powerful superlaser.
Origin and design
Although particular details, such as the superlaser's location, shifted between different concept models during production of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the notion of the Death Star being a large, spherical space station was consistent in all of them. The Death Star was created by the dean of special effects, John Stears. The buzzing sound counting down to the Death Star firing its superlaser comes from the Flash Gordon serials. Portraying an incomplete yet powerful space station posed a problem for Industrial Light & Magic's modelmakers for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Only the front side of the 137-centimeter model was completed, and the image was flipped horizontally for the final film. Both Death Stars were depicted by a combination of complete and sectional models and matte paintings.
The original Death Star's completed form appears in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), it is the Galactic Empire's "ultimate weapon", a space station capable of destroying a planet with one shot of its superlaser. The film opens with Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) transporting the station's schematics to the Rebel Alliance to aid them in destroying the Death Star. Tarkin orders the Death Star to destroy Leia's home world of Alderaan in an attempt to pressure her into giving him the location of the secret Rebel base; she gives them a (false) location, but Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway. Later, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill),Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Droids are pulled aboard the station by a tractor beam and rescue the Princess under harrowing circumstances. Darth Vader senses Obi-Wan's presence once the Millennium Falcon lands on the Death Star, and he seeks him out, setting up the iconic light saber duel between the two, but not before Obi-Wan deactivates the tractor beam controls to allow the others to escape. Later, Luke returns with a fighter squad to attack its weak point and manages to destroy it using his newfound powers of the force before it attacks the rebel base on Yavin IV.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi feature a second Death Star still under construction at the orbit of the second moon of Endor. Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) send the Rebels false information that the station's weapons systems are not operational in order to lure them into a trap, and bring Luke on board to turn him to the dark side of the Force. In the film's climax, a reformed Vader throws Palpatine down the station's reactor core, killing him, and is mortally wounded in the process. Skywalker escapes with Vader's body moments before the Rebels destroy the core, causing a chain reaction that brings it down with a massive explosion.
The Death Star explosions featured in the special edition of A New Hope and in Return of the Jedi are rendered with a Praxis effect, wherein a flat ring of matter erupts from the explosion.
Both Death Stars appear throughout the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The first Death Star's construction is the subject of Michael Reaves and Steve Perry's novel Death Star. In LucasArts' Star Wars: Battlefront II, the player participates in a mission to secure crystals used in the Death Star's superlaser. The first Death Star under construction acts as the final stage in the video game, The Force Unleashed. Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy introduces the Maw Cluster of black holes that protect a laboratory where the Death Star prototype was built (consisting of the super structure, power core, and Super Laser.) National Public Radio's A New Hope adaptation portrays Leia (Ann Sachs) and Bail Organa's (Stephen Elliott) discovery of the Death Star's existence and Leia's mission to steal the space station's schematics. The first level of LucasArts' Dark Forces gives the player a supporting role in Leia's mission, while a mission in Battlefront II tasks the player with acting as a stormtrooper or Darth Vader in an attempt to recover the plans and capture Leia. Steve Perry's novel Shadows of the Empire describes a mission that leads to the Rebels learning of the second Death Star's existence, and that mission is playable in LucasArts' X-Wing Alliance combat flight simulator. Numerous LucasArts titles recreate the movies' attacks on the Death Stars, and the Death Star itself is a controllable weapon in the Rebellion and Empire at War strategy game. A Death Star variation appears in Kevin J. Anderson's novel Darksaber.
The first Death Star is depicted in various sources of having a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew. Its hangars contain assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters. It is also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors. Various sources state the first Death Star has a diameter of between 140 and 160 kilometers.  There is a broader range of figures for the second Death Star's diameter, ranging from 160 to 900 kilometers.
In the Disney attraction, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, guests can travel inside an uncompleted Death Star during one of the randomized ride sequences.
Other uses of the term
A few astronomers sometimes use the term "Death Star" to describe Nemesis, a hypothetical star postulated in 1984 to be responsible for gravitationally forcing comets and asteroids from the Oort cloud toward Earth.
ILM's principal render farm is named Death Star. The effects house is extremely secretive about the computing power the AMD-powered Death Star possesses, but it is estimated that at one time it employed close to 1500 processors in 750 nodes.
The headquarters building of the Hungarian police (1139 Budapest, Teve utca 4-6.) is nicknamed "The Death Star" by policemen for its characteristic and somewhat futuristic design.
The Death Star is one of the better-known concepts from the Star Wars universe and is widely recognizable outside of that context.
In The Fairly OddParents, Dark Laser (a play on Darth Vader) planned to build a space station, known as the "Death Ball", a space station with Laser's face on it. It is also known as the World's Largest Disco Ball in the series.
The video games Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles contain plotlines centered around the "Death Egg", a space station resembling the Death Star, though altered to feature the face of series villain Doctor Robotnik. The Death Egg is built as a destructive superweapon; the story revolves around destroying this object. A similar superweapon, the Space Colony ARK (with the Eclipse Cannon), appears in Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog. Remade versions of the Death Egg are also made in other games, including the "Death Egg mk II" in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II.
In Canada, the term "death stars" was used to describe U.S. Direct Broadcast Satellites capable of broadcasting signals into Canada that were not regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
KTCK (SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket) in Dallas were the first to use the term "Death Star" to describe the new mammoth Cowboys Stadium, now AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. The term has since spread to local media and is generally accepted as a proper nickname for the stadium.
In February 2012, students from Lehigh University of Pennsylvania published a blog post that priced the Death Star based on the cost of steel to produce it. The students believed that in today's economy, it would cost $852 quadrillion assuming that the diameter of the Death Star was 140 kilometres but that it would take 833,315 years to produce enough steel to begin work.
Kenner and AMT created a playset and a model, respectively, of the first Death Star. In 2005 and 2008, Lego released models of Death Star II and Death Star I, respectively. Palitoy created a heavy card version of the Death Star as a playset for the vintage range of action figures in 1979 in the UK, Australia and Canada. Both Death Stars are part of different Micro Machines three-packs. The Death Stars and locations in them are cards in Decipher, Inc.'s and Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Star Wars Trading Card Game, respectively. Hasbro released a Death Star model that transforms into a Darth Vader mech. Estes Industries released a flying model rocket version.
White House petition
In 2012, a proposal on the White House's web site urging the United States government to build a real Death Star as an economic stimulus and job creation measure gained more than 25,000 signatures, enough to qualify for an official response. The official (tongue-in-cheek) response was released in January 2013 and noted that the cost of building a real Death Star has been estimated at $852 quadrillion and, at current rates of steel production, would not be ready for more than 833,000 years. The response also noted "the Administration does not support blowing up planets" and questions about funding a weapon "with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship" as reasons for denying the petition.
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