Sunday, January 13, 2013

White House response to online petition for real-life Death Star not what signees wanted to hear

It's dead, Jim. Indeed that quote belongs to "Star Trek," but it is what it is: On Friday, the White House has vaporized the online petition that asked it to build a Star Wars-style Death Star.

The White House's response it addressed the petition which has been made into a prime example for those who say the "We the People" website has jumped the shark. That petition said:
Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.
Once it passed the threshold of 25,000 signatures in a month, it earned a light-hearted and snarky response from the White House.

Titled "This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For," it said in part:

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
The administration has valid points, but remember: It took a Jedi strong in the Force to accurately exploit the exhaust port. Last time we looked, there wasn't a Luke Skywalker anywhere nearby.

The White House also reminded people of the following:
Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc.

We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
In addition, the White House added, it's not as though we're not working on anything:
Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun.

We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
In addition, let's not forget that:
[We've got] a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
In a somewhat serious conclusion to an obviously tongue-in-cheek missive, the White House added that folks interested in building a Death Star show pursue a career in science:
[...] help build it [the future] by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field.  The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
The official White House response was written by Paul Shawcross, who is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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