The Force will be with the Smithsonian in 2022 as the esteemed museum in Washington D.C. rolls out their latest prize artifact next year in the form of an actual "Star Wars" X-Wing fighter.
This iconic mosquito-like spaceship prop has been generously loaned to the Smithsonian by Lucasfilm Ltd. for an indefinite period.
"Despite taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, 'Star Wars' introduced generations of fans here on Earth to outer space as a setting for adventure and exploration," said Margaret Weitekamp, space history chair at the museum, in a statement. "All air and space milestones begin with inspiration, and science fiction so often provides that spark — the iconic X-wing displayed amid our other spacecraft celebrates the journey from imagination to achievement."
It's currently getting a proper shakedown and full conservation effort at the Restoration Hangar in Virginia beside a complement of World War II warbirds and assorted historic planes and spacecraft. Then sometime late next year, the sleek T-70 X-wing will go on public display at the entrance to the Albert Einstein Planetarium at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.
"We are thrilled to have an X-Wing on exhibit," Weitekamp told Smithsonian Magazine. "It is a real screen-used vehicle from the 2019 film "Rise of Skywalker." This display speaks to that crossover connection between people who are excited about space flight and have been inspired by the visions "Star Wars" has been putting out since 1977."
The Smithsonian's awesome new resident sports a wingspan of 37 feet (11 meters) and was carefully transported to museum caretakers in pieces by the folks at Industrial Light and Magic.
"'Star Wars' is a lived-in universe," Weitekamps told Smithsonian Magazine. "This is a battle-scarred X-Wing fighter. We want to distinguish between any scratches that occurred during shipping versus something that was built into the vehicle.
"I was on the floor looking at it and I pointed out a place where it looked like it had what pilot's would call 'hangar rash.' That's where you get scrape marks on the side of aircraft when they are moved around. I pointed it out to the conservator, who had a big smile and said, 'No, that's simulated. It's part of the detail by the artist!'"
This isn't the first "Star Wars" dance for the Smithsonian as the museum presented a collection of screen-used props and costumes for the "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth" exhibition in 1997.
From the moment it was initially seen in the original "Star Wars: A New Hope" in 1977, the fighter has taken flight in eight other "Star Wars" films in various incarnations, most recently in 2019's "The Rise of Skywalker" and episodes of Disney's "The Mandalorian."
"This is a T-70 X-Wing," Weitekamp told Smithsonian Magazine. "It's the next generation. The one Luke Skywalker flew in the original trilogy was a T-65B. The big visible difference is the X-foils that split apart. Each had an engine. The T-70 was designed to include one large engine on each wing. When X-attack formation is deployed, the engine splits into two semi-hemispheres."
Stay tuned for more details as this rare X-Wing gets a fitting restoration and VIP treatment for a planned Smithsonian unveiling in 2022.
Correction: Due to an editing error, the original headline for this story cited the X-wing headed to the Smithsonian as Luke Skywalker's. It appeared in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
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Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.