The first thought I had while touring The Millennium Falcon Experience at the Northern Kentucky University campus was that this fictional ship from the Star Wars stories would be the best way to travel from Earth to Mars, or the moon and some more distant destination within our solar system. I thought of Jules Verne’s great book From the Earth to the Moon where he conceived of the rocket design that would be used 100 years later when NASA would eventually launch people into space and land on the moon. Star Wars was much more than just geek fandom. While I had personally thought about sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon from the movies most of my life, and never thought I’d ever get a chance to actually do so, when the time did come I couldn’t help but think of real space travel using the actual design of the Millennium Falcon to serve as a foundation for a fleet of ships that would take commercial space travel to the next level.
I have been enjoying all this Han Solo media ahead of the new movie coming out on May 25th. Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon are some of my favorite fictional things in entertainment so I have been looking forward to a movie dedicated just to him and his famous starship. When I was a kid and was watching these movies for the first time I’d spend a lot of hours thinking of how to build the Millennium Falcon and trying to figure out the engineering of it. Obviously, I wasn’t alone, millions of people have been so enamored. It is a wonderful thing to see imaginations sparked to life by what they see in a movie. Over the years there have been attempts to build elements of the Millennium Falcon by the legions of fans that follow the Star Wars movies and I have enjoyed their attempts. Most notably I have been very excited to learn that a full-sized Millennium Falcon will appear at the new Disney Parks called Galaxy’s Edge. I can’t help but think that the human race is on a similar trajectory as it was with the Jules Verne novels and how NASA emerged.
I was one of the first in line to see the exhibit at NKU on Friday at 11 AM. I’m a very busy person but not too busy to see the interior of the actual Millennium Falcon as it goes on a five-city tour promoting the new Solo: A Star Wars Story all through the month of May. The Millennium Falcon is after all my favorite ship in science fiction and this whole tour started in my home town, so I had to take a moment to go see it, and it was quite impressive. It was really cool to visit the cockpit that was only seen in the movies from a few points of view, which have become iconic over the years. But it didn’t take long for the nostalgia to wear off for me and to look at the display put on by Lucasfilm as a film promotion to begin to take it all very seriously.
What’s really unique about this new film set before the events of the original movies is that the Millennium Falcon is presented not as a hunk of junk, but as the best and most exquisite of ships from its era. The Millennium Falcon becomes a junkie star ship because of the rough lifestyle of Han Solo, but this new movie goes to the start of all that, before a time when the popular Star Wars character owned the ship. As presented the Millennium Falcon was well made and bright white looking like an icon of luxury. It looked like the ship I remembered from my childhood only it looked much better. When I think of the Millennium Falcon I think of a dirty interior of a couple of friends living without women flying from one end of the galaxy to the other and not carrying to clean up after themselves. But presented the way it was for this promotional tour, the Millennium Falcon looked like a realistic offering for our own modern space travel.
It is a little ironic to me that it was the year of 2018 that Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise seems to start paying off. I think this new Solo movie will be one of the most popular and will ignite a fresh start for the popular films. It’s the first time that there have ever been two Star Wars films within one year of each other and the impact that has had on merchandising has been remarkable. It’s hard to go to Wal-Mart or Target these days without seeing something regarding Star Wars. And all this is happening as commercial space endeavors are literally starting to take off. Later this year Virgin Galactic will begin their commercial flights for space tourism and Space X is preparing to send people around the moon. All this is happening while a Trump presidency has thrown its weight behind a reinvigorated NASA space program and a hot economy that is redefining employment statistics. The iWatch has essentially turned us all into Dick Tracy speaking on the phone to others from our wrists, things are moving very quickly these days.
I find it all very exciting. It won’t be long before Elon Musk has a colony on Mars and commercial industry begins to move into space. The next 50 years will explode along the frontier of space much like it did in America once humans began westward expansion free of European kings for the first time in known history. Space will bring much of the same ambition for adventure and profit. But people won’t want to fly in the kind of cramped quarters that we see with ship designs so far offered. Likely we’ll resort to what we know from films and literature, and the Millennium Falcon looks to me to have solved many of those long-distance space traveling problems.
You can make a starship in really any design you want, what you’ll need for long distance space travel is something that humans are comfortable in, that can use its external surfaces to generate power and have lots of surface area for controllable thrust. The design of the Millennium Falcon presents a lot of options for hauling freight to and from places like Mars over 18-month visits one way. Sitting in the cockpit and forgetting about the hyperspace jumps we see in the movies it wasn’t hard for me to consider spinning the Falcon to produce gravity until it arrives at its destination around Mars. Hooking up to whatever cargo it needs to bring back to earth then resuming that spinning effect all the way back with the crew living in relative luxury inside the whole time. Because of Star Wars we have a whole generation of people who are intellectually ready to accept such a deep space reality.
The Millennium Falcon’s interior as it was presented at NKU was certainly something I could live in for the long back and forth journeys to Mars that are about to become quite a reality. The Millennium Falcon already has practical docking clamps as part of its design. Solar panels could easily be incorporated into the outer shell to provide power and the interior is large enough to not go crazy in over such a long voyage. It’s round and interesting taking away the boxy designs that are offered in the International Space Station which is not conducive for long periods in space where people want to gather in a common room, but also want to be able to have their personal space as well. People need to get away from each other as well as communicate in common ways. The Falcon’s interior design goes a long way to solving lots of deep space traveling problems for a functional freighter.
Looking at that exhibit at NKU I could easily see some eccentric future billionaire building a fleet of Millennium Falcon style ships to essentially become like tractor trailers hauling rare minerals from the moon and Mars to enrich life on earth then use that wealth creation to catapult mankind even deeper into space. I could live on the Millennium Falcon with the amenities that were presented in the exhibit for many months, even years on end. Normally when we see designs for space, the environment has a military look to everything which makes it so that only the most disciplined space travelers could endure the experience. But that will have to change, and it is in our science fiction designs. To me the most impressive thing about the Millennium Falcon Experience was that after only 50 years of film history fans of the movies have finally figured out how to make the ships that were shown in Star Wars, and now artists and craftsmen are able to actually recreate what we see in the movies in real life. The next steps become rather obvious at that point and that is truly exciting. The Millennium Falcon Experience at NKU advertising a new Han Solo movie was something I personally never thought I’d see. But after seeing it, and touching it, and soaking it all in—I have a feeling that we will all be seeing a lot more of it in the years to come. As I left that exhibit I had the strange feeling that I may just own my own Millennium Falcon in a few years that can fly to Mars and back many times over as routinely as we can now drive to Florida now in a car. And I think I would like that world very much!
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