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The Very Real History of Death Stars

The Galactic Empire constructed an operational space station in orbit and armed it with weapons capable of destroying planets. Twice. They weren't the only ones to conceive of such an idea. And although weaponized satellites built on earth wouldn't be quite that powerful, they are way more terrifying, because those plans are real. The first one was found in the confiscated archives of Nazi Germany. A Life magazine article from 1945 told of the German concept of an orbital base, armed with a "sun gun."

But the war brought a new idea to the table: Make a space station, put it at a lower orbit, and arm it with a giant mirror “to burn an enemy city to ashes or boil part of an ocean.” The station would be manned with a crew that, when not aiming the giant mirror
like a bully frying ants, would instead tend to pumpkin gardens.

The biggest obstacle for such a plan, the magazine claimed, was that no heavy rocket existed that could ferry the parts into orbit. “If the modern German scientists had been able to make such a rocket, they may have been able to set up their sun gun,” the article notes. “Whether the sun gun would have accomplished what they expected, however, is another matter.”

Modern German scientists were eventually able to make those powerful rockets -for the United States. The US and the Soviet Union also had their own plans for putting weapons of mass destruction into orbit, although they were written quite a bit later. Read about the proposed programs at Popular Mechanics. -via Digg

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