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More than 34,000 citizens signed the online petition requesting the government to build the Death Star from Star Wars. (Everett Collection)

White House Shoots Down Death Star

The U.S. government responds to a petition to build the fictional space station from Star Wars

By Tyrus Cukavac | February 8 , 2013
<p>“We the People” launched in September 2011 so that citizens can directly address White House experts over the Internet.  </p>

“We the People” launched in September 2011 so that citizens can directly address White House experts over the Internet.

The Obama administration has dealt a blow to the Dark Side. Petitioners on the White House’s “We the People” website recently received a response to their request for the government to begin construction on a Death Star by 2016. A petition is a formal request about an issue made to authorities. People sign petitions to show their support for the request.

The Death Star is a fictional space station from Star Wars, the famous film series. In the movies, it can destroy entire planets.

More than 34,000 citizens signed the petition. The petition argued that building the giant space station could create jobs and help the economy. It also claimed that it would benefit national defense.

The White House didn’t agree. In their response, officials said that the Death Star would cost an estimated $850,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s 850 quadrillion dollars). This would increase the government’s debt, or the amount of money it owes to others.

What about national defense? “The Administration does not support blowing up planets,” wrote Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, in the official response.

He went on to highlight American achievements in space exploration and technology. He encouraged Americans to become scientists or engineers, so that someday a massive project on the scale of building a Death Star could become a reality.

“If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering, or math-related field, the Force will be with us!” Shawcross said.

A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to petition their government. The White House launched the “We the People” website in September 2011. Through the site’s petitioning process, citizens can directly address their requests to the White House over the internet.

When the site was first launched, a petition required only 5,000 signatures before the administration would respond. As the number of people using the site grew, this requirement was increased.

At the time the Death Star petition was made, 25,000 signatures were required within its first month to receive a response from the White House. Now petitioners need to get 100,000 signatures within a month for the administration to respond. This move may have been made to eliminate frivolous, or silly, petitions. It takes time to consider petitions from citizens, and the White House wants to spend time only on serious requests.

Macon Phillips, the White House’s director of digital strategy, explained in a blog post, “We’re making another adjustment to ensure we’re able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve.”

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