R2-D2, the robot from Star Wars that did many things is no longer a big screen idea. There is a real life model of R2-D2 that does several things on the ISS. Called Robonaut 2, this simple version of R2-D2 does several simplified tasks that otherwise would take a lot of time. It flips a few switches, does rudimentary experiments and keeps track of several aspects of the space station. This lets our astronauts concentrate on major activities and experiments that need their full attention. In future renditions of the Robonaut, NASA aims at giving it more abilities. One in particular stands out – the ability to space walk and conduct simple tasks out in space. This is a definite must have considering how risky a spacewalk for an astronaut is.
Next, let’s move to C-3PO. This was a translator droid from the Star Wars franchise and while it managed to translate almost any language in the Star Wars universe, our current edition of C-3PO called Kirobo doesn’t do all that much. It is at best a precursor to C-3PO and an early version at that. Kirobo currently is capable of holding long chats with anyone. It is a child like robot that recently had an interesting chat with ISS and Koichi Wakata in particular. The robot is being developed as a rather interactive bot that can provide company for senior citizens and astronauts obviously, because they are alone for a long time in space.
Another idea in Star Wars was the way Jedi training involved the use of synchronized robots. These robots hovered in real time and communicated with each other while being aware of their surroundings. NASA has recently built a fleet of robots that perform a similar feat. While they do not hover, they definitely fly in a synchronized manner. Basically they speak to each other and move in a manner that resembles synchronized swimmers. NASA has managed to make these robots do some really intricate movements and hopes to use them in future with satellites to give them intelligence of their surroundings.
Those were the obvious ideas take from Star Wars but there are several other less obvious inspirations from the world of Star Wars. Take for instance the TIE fighters who had their exterior covered with solar panels. NASA and all their rovers since the first one that landed on mars use solar panels all over their external body.
Lasers in Star Wars form the main weapon of choice other than light sabers. In the real world NASA is using lasers as a means of communicating in space at near light speed. It will be testing this technology out with the next round of lunar missions.