For a Death Star.
Actually, as far as government spending projects go, I've heard worse ideas.
(hat tip to Robert)
Update: In retrospect, this figure is grossly inflated. $12.8 septillion is devoted to actually putting the estimated 134 quadrillion metric tons of steel into space. That's based on current Earth-based space-faring rates, which of course come from incredibly inefficient rockets that can only put a few tons in space at a time.
Any civilization that can figure out how to move that much mass from one star system to another (say, from Alderaan to Yavin) in a matter of hours or days has obviously come up with a much more efficient way of moving objects into space. (Even old beat up land vehicles seem to have no problem defying gravity in this world.) I'd guess the costs of moving the steel into space are pretty negligible. This project wouldn't cost more than a few quintillion dollars.
Also, they could probably come up with something lighter than steel. Just guessing.
Still, isn't the whole Death Star a really wasteful project? I mean, basically, all you really want is a giant gun that can move quickly from one planet to the next. It just has to be a credible threat to disobediant systems. And the gun itself doesn't seem to require too many people to operate and maintain it. Do they really need all that other stuff and personnel in there?
One of the comments to the post that details the figures on the building of the Death Star constructs an interesting conspiracy theory around the idea that the value of the Death Star was as a threat to disobedient systems. The commenter proposes that the Death Star was actually a hollow shell, and that it didn't even have the stated weapon capacity to destroy a planet. Rather, the Empire rigged Alderaan with underground nuclear explosives (shades of the 9/11 conspiracy theory), staged a Death Star attack, and then baited the rebellion into an attack on the Death Star, which was itself rigged for self-destruction when the attack occurred. In the aftermath of the destruction of the Death Star, the Emperor could continue to plausibly claim that he had the technology available to build more Death Stars that could destroy planets (shades of Saddam Hussein's WMD bluff). Of course, the Emperor did not account for the fact that the nerf herder that the seemingly impotent rebellion sent to destroy the rigged for destruction Death Star would turn out to be the last Jedi, son of Darth Vader himself. Nevertheless, the Death Star ruse itself was wildly successful.
Okay, I'll buy that Alderaan was a setup, and I'll even buy that they tried to goad the rebels into an attack. But I think it would have sent a much stronger message to repel the rebel attack and destroy the Yavin moon.
Wouldn't it have made more sense for the Empire to leak fake Death Star plans? Ones that revealed a design flaw that didn't actually exist?
The idea is that the Empire had to quickly destroy the Death Star before people became wise to the fact that it was not what it appeared to be. In that respect, the Leia rescue mission, which was explicitly staged ("They let us go. It's the only explanation for the ease of our escape."), looks even more reasonable since it helped to maintain the illusion that this was a fully functioning space station. All they had to do was build a tiny fraction of the total surface area of the station and then use the tractor beam to pull the Millenium Falcon into that portion.
And, as to the plans, they WERE fake! There was no actual design flaw. That was all part of the ruse to get the rebels to attack.
(I love being the advocate for the conspiracy theory. There's always a ready explanation for any possible objection. Bonus feature: don't have to verify anything.)
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