The Perseverance rover on Mars dropped off a tube of rock samples and it looks like it came straight from a galaxy far, far away. There’s (probably) no kyber crystals inside, but it bears a strong resemblance to a lightsaber. Somehow we doubt that the design similarities are an accident. There’s probably a bunch of Star Wars-loving nerds at NASA geeking out over this moment as well. If you’ve seen Apollo 13, you’ll know that NASA is also capable of the same kit-bashing skills that led to the iconic lightsaber hilts.
Whether or not the sample holder is meant to look like a lightsaber, the task of returning them to Earth is a big deal. Each hilt (or sample tube) is filled with a sample collected by Perseverance. NASA shares information about each one, including pictures from the rover of the drill site. Not counting the pet rock it picked up in its wheel while roving around Mars, Perseverance has collected 18 samples. The rover dropped the first one at a potential pickup spot near its original landing site. Next, it took the picture above to make sure the sample hadn’t rolled under the rover’s wheels. It will drop more lightsabers/tubes over the course of the next two months. But it also holds onto duplicates of each sample in case anything goes wrong.
Returning the samples to Earth is a long term goal. NASA is aiming to put a lander on Mars in 2028 and the samples may not make it back to Earth until 2033. Even then, scientists would preserve some of the the rocks for decades. That way, they can be analyzed with technology that doesn’t even exist yet. Researchers did the same with lunar samples collected by the Apollo program, some of which they are just now studying 50 years later.
If you want your own lightsaber/Perseverance sample tube, you can try kit-bashing your own build. Or put one together on your next trip to Savi’s Workshop at Galaxy’s Edge in the Disney theme parks. That way, you’ll get to choose what color your lightsaber is. We assume all those coming back from Mars will be red.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.