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Luke's lightsaber to take flight

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

NASA has a long history of bringing mementos from Earth aboard space shuttles to drum up interest for the sometimes painfully slow process of constructing the orbiting International Space Station. In June the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with an artifact from the 17th-century American settlement of Jamestown to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding.

Now NASA is celebrating a more recent occasion – the 30th anniversary of Star Wars – by sending the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the 1977 film aboard the space shuttle Discovery in October.

As the collectors' website Collectspace.com reports, "the force will be with them."

As if sending the prop wasn't enough of a media grab, Collectspace says the prop will get a proper send-off. Evidently a person dressed as the Wookie Chewbacca will officially hand the lightsaber to NASA officials at Oakland International Airport in California today before he - in a rare team-up - joins Boba and Jango Fett to push the airplane holding the saber on the tarmac. R2D2 and a group of stormtroopers waiting in Houston will then escort the prop to a waiting line of Hummers to whisk it to NASA's Johnson Space Center.

And this is all months before the lightsaber even leaves orbit.

Compare this to the story of Canadian actor James Doohan, who had his ashes launched into space, and then briefly misplaced, during a private launch. Perhaps Doohan, who played Scotty in the rival science fiction franchise Star Trek, could have invested in some extra Klingon security guards to see to his safe passage.

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