The first thing we see is the planet Earth, floating in space like the beautiful marble it is before plunging through a wormhole and racing across space. We emerge in a well-lit California living room in front of an older man with a graying goatee and a familiar voice.
“Hello, I’m Mark Hamill,” he says. “The guy who played ‘Luke’ in all those Star Wars movies.”
As if we needed to be reminded. Hamill is lending his famous face and voice to the US State Department for a series of videos about — what else? — space. The six-part series, which is now live on the State Department’s website, touches on a variety of space innovations, such as microbes, astronauts staying fit in space, maintaining muscle mass, advancing robots that track astronauts’ health, filtering water from recycled waste, farming in space to grow food, and more.
Hamill was chosen because of his Star Wars fame but also because of his robust following on social media. In addition to publishing the videos on the State Department’s various channels, Hamill will also cross-post the series on his own Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) accounts, where he has a combined 11.7 million followers. Even more, Hamill appears to be doing the project pro bono; State Department spokesperson Asjia Garner confirmed that the actor was not being paid to star in the videos.
Hamill, who, in addition to his iconic performances as Luke Skywalker, is also a prolific voice actor in numerous animated features (and Ukrainian air raid alerts, apparently), naturally makes a lot of references to Star Wars in the video series. But he also throws a little fuel on the fire of the debate among sci-fi fans over the eternal question: which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars is “pure fantasy,” Hamill says to the camera. “But Star Trek is genuine science fiction, and it celebrates the wonders of scientific achievement.”
This leads to a discussion about “a real — if nascent — tricorder has been developed on the International Space Station.” The handheld devices aren’t able to “magically detect everything from unknown life forms to the nature of a crew member’s illness,” but they can identify microbes — bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye — growing throughout the International Space Station.
Other quips from Hamill include likening working out in space to “training with Yoda on Dagobah” and a discussion of robots on the ISS reminding him of his days “fixing up droids on Tatooine.”
Overall, it’s fun watching Hamill revel in his role as an elder statesman for science fiction and science exploration. And the State Department is clearly hoping to capitalize on his involvement to steer more attention to its own efforts to promote not just the ISS but also the Artemis Accords, which were signed in 2020 by the US and seven other countries.
The accords, which seek to standardize international efforts to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond, celebrates its third anniversary next week. To date, 29 nations have signed the accords committing “to the responsible exploration and use of space.”
“The sky is not the limit,” Hamill intones at the end of the video series. “It’s just the beginning.” And for good measure, he adds, “The Force will be with you, always.”
Update October 6th 1:53PM ET: Updated to include information about Hamill’s compensation (or lack thereof).