| || NASA Shuttle to Launch Luke Skywalker's Lightsaber |
By Robert Z. Pearlman
posted: 28 August 2007
10:34 a.m. ET
When the space shuttle Discovery launches the STS-120
astronaut crew in October, the force will be with them.
Stowed on-board the orbiter, in addition to a new module
for the International Space Station, will be the
original prop lightsaber used by actor Mark Hamill as
Luke Skywalker in the 1977 film "Star Wars". The
laser-like Jedi weapon is being flown to the orbiting
outpost and back in honor of the 30th anniversary
of director George Lucas' franchise.
Before it can make its trip to orbit though,
the lightsaber will first fly to Houston, Texas,
home of NASA's Johnson Space Center, by
way of Southwest Airlines and a
Star Wars-studded send off from Oakland
International Airport in California on Tuesday.
Chewbacca, the towering Wookiee best
known from the film as Han Solo's co-pilot
on the Millennium Falcon, will officially hand
the lightsaber over to officials from Space Center
Houston during a ceremony at the airport. Joining
"Chewie" will be other characters from the
six-part sci-fi classic, including Boba and
Jango Fett and together they help push back
the airplane on the tarmac.
Once on the ground in Houston, the flight will
be greeted by a troop of Stormtroopers and
other Star Wars notables including the droid R2-D2,
who will deliver the lightsaber to a waiting line of Hummers
outside the baggage claim of the William P. Hobby Airport.
Accompanied by a police escort, the soon-to-be real space
artifact will be driven to Space Center Houston to be exhibited
inside a vault that currently displays moon rocks.
Space Center Houston, as the official visitor center for NASA's
Johnson Space Center, plans to publicly display the lightsaber
through Labor Day, after which it will be prepared for its launch
from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The lightsaber is scheduled to depart California at 10:40 a.m.
PDT and arrive in Texas at 4:20 p.m. CDT according to a
release jointly issued Monday by Southwest Airlines,
Space Center Houston and Lucasfilm.
STS-120, targeted for launch on October 23, will be led
by commander Pam Melroy and pilot George Zamka.
The seven-person crew is completed by mission specialists
Scott Parazynski, Doug Wheelock, Stephanie Wilson and
European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, as well
as space station Expedition 16 flight engineer Dan Tani.
Besides the lightsaber, their primary cargo is the station's
second Italian-built U.S. multi-port node named Harmony.