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SpaceX vs. Drogon: Which Dragon Wins the 'Game of Thrones'?

How does a SpaceX Dragon capsule stack up against the dragons of "Game of Thrones"?
How does a SpaceX Dragon capsule stack up against the dragons of "Game of Thrones"?
(Image: © SpaceX/HBO)

Tonight, "Game of Thrones" fans will hopefully see all their questions about the epic fantasy series answered. But chances are high that the show's final episode won't tackle our most pressing question: Which would win, one of these fire-breathing dragons or one of SpaceX's Dragon capsules?

For anyone who has managed to avoid the television sensation, here's the deal with "Game of Thrones," which has riveted fans for eight years now. The show is most known for the twists and turns of the epic plot, as well as the conniving misdeeds and violent deaths that no character can seem to manage to escape.

No one has stolen the show quite like the trio of fire-breathing dragons, Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal, who appear unexpectedly, after dragons had been lost from the world of Westeros for more than a century.

Related: The 25 Greatest Spaceships of Science Fiction

But how would the show's dragons fare beyond the fantastical world of Westeros, and how would they fare against today's dragons? SpaceX Dragon capsules currently ferry supplies to the astronauts living and working on the International Space Station and, if all goes according to plan, will soon carry humans as well. (The capsules made their first flight before the epic series, which is based on a fantasy series by George R. R. Martin, hit the small screen.)

Let's start the showdown!

Age and Origin Story: The three "Game of Thrones" dragons hatch at the end of the first season and are tended — although not necessarily controlled — by Daenerys Targaryen. But while the show lasts just eight years in the real world, it's difficult to tell how quickly time passes in Westeros as the show's drama unfolds. SpaceX began work on the Dragon capsule in 2004, with the first flight launching in 2010. No winner.

Names: Daenerys named her hatchlings in honor of her husband and two brothers, all of whom are dead by the time the dragons are born. SpaceX founder Elon Musk named the spacecraft in response to skepticism about his goals, he wrote on Twitter last year: "[It w]as originally called Puff the Magic Dragon, as people said I was high if though it could work, so I named it after their insult." Winner: It's a matter of taste.

What Keeps Them Running: The dragons of "Game of Thrones" are enthusiastically carnivorous, but once they get big enough, they hunt for themselves, which is awfully convenient if you have a busy schedule of trying to take over the world. SpaceX's Dragon capsules get most of their zoom from the Falcon 9 rockets they launch on, but they are also equipped with thrusters powered by chemical fuel, which helps them maneuver along their journeys. Winner: "Game of Thrones."

Flexibility: Daenerys' trio can launch from essentially anywhere. Every Dragon capsule that has flown to date blasted off from one of two launchpads in Florida, each a massive infrastructure site. Winner: "Game of Thrones."

Population size: So far, viewers have seen just three dragons on "Game of Thrones"; SpaceX has launched more than a dozen Dragon capsules. Winner: SpaceX.

Related: Take a Walk Through SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spaceship

Sound Effects: As our colleagues at Live Science have reported, the dragons of "Game of Thrones" make very terrestrial sounds — which happen to be filched from a male giant tortoise mating, the sound designer's pet dog whistling and dragonfly wings rustling. SpaceX hasn't released much information about what it's like inside their capsules, but astronauts have generally said that being inside spacecraft sounds kind of like being inside a jet plane. Winner: "Game of Thrones."

Personality: Daenerys is quite affectionate with her dragons, and Drogon seems to enjoy the occasional cuddle with her. On the other hand, the trio is responsible for countless deaths, and not all of those are on Daenerys' orders. SpaceX's capsules are much less problematic. Winner: SpaceX.

Carrying Capacity: In "Game of Thrones," we have yet to see a dragon carrying cargo, but Daenerys regularly rides Drogon and once offered other humans a getaway ride. SpaceX has launched 16 cargo missions to the space station; the company has also been developing its Crew Dragon capsule, which is designed to carry astronauts to the space station. Winner: Until Crew Dragon proves itself, we're sticking with "Game of Thrones."

How Much Damage They Can Take: The dragons can withstand some violence, but they have their limits. In Season 5, we see Drogon take a few spears and fly away, but in the final season, one of its siblings falls prey to a bolt from a ballista (a large crossbow). Spacecraft are more complicated — they are carefully designed to withstand the harsh conditions of launch and re-entry, but plenty can go wrong and often does. (In 2017, Musk famously released a "blooper reel" of Falcon 9 rockets exploding; most recently, the company's first Crew Dragon capsule to fly to the space station was damaged when rockets designed to carry humans to safety in the case of an emergency misfired.) Winner: "Game of Thrones."

Grasp on Reality: "Game of Thrones" is entirely fictional; Dragon capsules are real technology flying today. Winner: SpaceX.

Sorry, folks, but the verdict is clear: The "Game of Thrones" dragons have SpaceX's Dragon capsules beat.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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