After the major crash that occurred during Virgin Galactic’s very first test flight four years ago, the company finally had a spaceplane take flight again. The VSS Unity embarked on its second powered flight less than two months after the first successful engine ignition. As these test flights continue to succeed, the company inches ever closer to bringing commercial space travel to the public.
The spaceplane is not designed to take off on its own, rather it is tugged along on the wing of a giant aircraft carrier, in this case, called WhiteKnightTwo. The aircraft carrier lifts the spaceplane to an altitude of 45,000 feet before releasing it into the sky. The engine is then engaged, and the VSS Unity has the chance to climb ever higher into the atmosphere.
On this second flight attempt, the Unity reached a record 22 miles above the surface of the Earth, with the engine burning for 31 seconds, which is half of the expected time it will need to burn when breaking through the atmosphere. The spacecraft was moving at a speed that is almost two times the speed of sound.
The reason for the shorter engine burning time on this test run was in order to see how the plane moved at such high speeds, especially since the company added more seats and other pieces of equipment that put more weight on the back of the plane.
According to Virgin Galactic CEO, Richard Branson, “It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space. Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals.” The company expects to start doing test runs into space within the coming months.
How Do the ‘Star Wars’ Characters Look Out of Their Costumes?
The character Padmé Amidala was featured in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Queen Padmé is a courageous leader and ruler of Naboo, and also mother to Luke and Leia.
Despite her highly moral ideals and efforts towards the cause of peace, her secret forbidden marriage to Jedi Anakin Skywalker — who would later become the great villain Darth Vader — brought dire consequences for the entire galaxy. The character was adorned in the most dramatic and intricately over-the-top costume, which can only be fit for a queen.
It was Natalie Portman who played this iconic character in all the three Star Wars prequel movies, which are still considered among her best performances. Later in 2010, Portman landed a leading role in Black Swan — for which she won an Oscar.
She also has received two more Academy Award nominations as Best Supporting Actress for Closer (2004) and Best Actress for Jackie (2016). With several hit films and the female lead in MCU’s Thor films, Portman is now one of the leading ladies of Hollywood.
Sabé was the young handmaiden of Naboo Queen Padmé Amidala, one of the five handmaidens the Queen had during her reign. Sabé was hand-picked due to her resemblance to Padmé Amidala, in order to act as a decoy to protect the queen from assassination attempts.
This supporting character made a brief but important appearance only in one of the prequel movies, Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. In her costume, the character was truly a spitting image of the original queen.
Keira Knightley was only 12 years old when she played this particular role. She was chosen for the character of Sabé due to her resemblance to Padmé actress Natalie Portman. With similarly wild costumes and eccentric headpieces, the two characters were almost impossible to tell apart.
During post-production, Knightley’s voice was replaced by Portman’s to complete the whole character. Knightley earned more prominent achievement with the character of Elizabeth Swan in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Some of her other critically acclaimed performances include Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Imitation Game.
Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader
Darth Vader’s iconic characteristics include an ultra-deep voice and robotic breathing. The character is now dubbed as one of the best villains in the history of cinema. Before pledging himself to the Sith, the character was Anakin Skywalker — a young boy, who was discovered as a slave on Tatooine.
Later a hero of the Clone Wars, Anakin had the potential to become one of the most powerful Jedi ever. He was caring and compassionate, but also had a fear of loss, which would later become the cause of his downfall.
Hayden Christensen, David Prowse, and James Earl Jones
Canadian actor Hayden Christensen played the role of Anakin Skywalker. There were actually two actors working behind the camera to make the epic character real. Actor David Prowse was the actual person in full costume with the robotic mask and flowing cape, wielding the lightsaber and stalking his way around the Death Star.
Prowse was a renowned bodybuilder and also had a notable role in A Clockwork Orange. On the other hand, the character’s deep bass voice and iconic dialogue was delivered by legendary actor James Earl Jones.
Emperor Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Living a double life of Sheev Palpatine and Darth Sidious, this main villain is undoubtedly one of the most terrifying and absolutely creepy characters in the entire Star Wars universe. As Palpatine, he was a Naboo Senator who manipulated the entire political system of the Galactic Republic until he became the Supreme Chancellor himself.
Eventually becoming the Emperor, he ruled the galaxy establishing tyranny. As Sith Lord, Darth Sidious was similarly powerful, scheming, and evil to the core.
Traditional stage actor and director Ian McDiarmid played two faces. He was Palpatine from Return of the Jedi and Darth Sidious, the Chancellor’s Sith alter ego. But crucially at the same time, McDiarmid created a pleasant, charming character in Palpatine’s public persona for the sake of the story.
The actor also voiced the same character in the animated series Star Wars Rebels. CNN named McDiarmid fourth on their ‘Top 10 List of British Villains’ — due to his “darkly seductive voice,” which helped bring the character of Darth Sidious to life.
Darth Maul is another iconic character of the Star Wars universe. An antagonist to the Jedi, the character became immediately recognizable with his intimidating double-bladed lightsaber and ferocious martial arts moves.
He was a deadly Sith Lord, who was trained by the evil villain Darth Sidious — aka Sheev Palpatine. With impeccable skill and agility, Darth Maul was a terrifying warrior and devious, scheming mastermind.
Ray Park and Peter Serafinowicz
Again, another set of actors worked collaboratively to make Darth Maul come to life on-screen. Scottish martial arts specialist Ray Park was originally in costume and makeup, as he’s the one who performed all the moves and tricky stuntwork.
At the same time, Shaun of the Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy-famed comedian Peter Serafinowicz recorded the dialogue and lent his voice to the character.
Boba Fett is a bounty hunter character in the Star Wars universe. He made his debut in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special and later appeared in the Empire Strikes Back, as well as Return of the Jedi. The character is now being featured in the Disney+ series, The Mandalorian.
Being trained in combat and martial skills from a young age, Boba Fett is one of the most fearsome bounty hunters in the galaxy. His appearance is completed with his customized Mandalorian armor, deadly artillery, and silent demeanor.
Jeremy Bulloch and Jason Wingreen, Temuera Morrison
Like many other Star Wars characters, Boba Fett was portrayed and voiced by two different people for the movies. While actor Jeremy Bulloch donned the green armor in both films, Jason Wingreen provided the voice of the character. For the small screen in The Mandalorian, the character is played solely by actor Temuera Morrison.
Morrison is already well-known for his work in the Star Wars multimedia franchise, portraying the roles of Boba’s foster father Jango Fett in the 2002 film, Attack of the Clones.
Most of the stormtroopers of the Star Wars universe are male, with one notable exception of Captain Phasma. This female trooper is one bold character in the male-dominated force.
She appeared in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as the commander of the First Order’s legions of stormtroopers. Clad in distinctive armor of salvaged chromium, Captain Phasma was a tough veteran commander. We bet you didn’t know about this.
Actress Gwendoline Christie donned the shiny armor of Captain Phasma in both movies. She also played Commander Lyme in the final film of the Hunger Games series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.
But Christie is perhaps best known for her highly praised portrayal of Lady Brienne of Tarth in the popular HBO fantasy-drama series, Game of Thrones. She received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2019.
This character is a protocol droid built by young Anakin Skywalker. Though his original creator finally turned to the dark side during the course of events, C-3PO has been a loyal rebel supporter all along. He’s a constant companion of astromech R2-D2
He was involved in several thrilling battles over the years, which were actually the most defining moments of the galaxy. He’s also fluent in more than seven million forms of communication. The character has been featured in almost all of the Star Wars films.
English actor and mime artist Anthony Daniels wore that famous gold-plated robotic suit of C-3PO in all 10 Star Wars films. He also lent the quirky and stiff robotic voice of the character. Even though C-3PO was not in the film Solo: A Star Wars Story, Daniels did make a different cameo in the film.
This made him the only actor of the franchise to have appeared in all 11 theatrical movies. He has also been involved or appeared in all Star Wars-animated television shows, as well as many of their spin-offs.
R2-D2 is the adorable astromech droid, who appears in most of the films of the franchise. Being very resourceful, he carried key information of events — all whilst serving Padmé Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, and Luke Skywalker in successive turns.
R2-D2 had shown great gallantry on several occasions by rescuing his masters and their close friends from many dangers. He’s now a loyal companion to Princess Leia. This bot has been a really reliable partner.
Kenny Baker, Jimmy Vee
Surprisingly, this cute blue and white droid was not remote-controlled as many would have imagined it to be. It was actually played by English actor and musician Kenny Baker, from inside that robot costume. Who would have thought?!
Baker is also well-known for his movies Labyrinth, Time Bandits, Elephant Man, Amadeus, Flash Gordon, and Willow. After the original trilogy, actor Jimmy Vee replaced Baker for the character’s appearance in The Last Jedi.
Master Yoda is the ultimate Zedi icon of the Star Wars universe. He was the personal trainer of young Luke Skywalker. The character spoke in confusing out-of-sequence sentences. This legendary Jedi Master was small in stature but most wise and powerful.
He trained the Jedi for over 800 years, and was stronger than most in his connection with the Force. He also played crucial integral roles in the Clone Wars. With his wisdom, he was also able to unlock the path to immortality.
The character of Yoda was actually a puppet, worked and voiced by puppet master Frank Oz. This renowned puppeteer, actor, and filmmaker also performed for a host of The Muppet Show favorites such as Fozzie Bear, Animal, Miss Piggy, and Sam Eagle — as well as Cookie Monster, Grover, and Bert in Sesame Street.
He also directed several films such as The Dark Crystal, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob?, In & Out, Death at a Funeral, and an episode of the US TV series, Leverage.
Maz Kanata is a quirky alien character that’s 1,000 years old and runs a tavern. She’s tiny in stature but is highly experienced at surviving different struggles — especially in the underworld. From her Takodana castle, Maz has witnessed the rise and fall of galactic powers.
She has also felt the instability of the Force, trying to achieve a near-impossible balance between light and darkness. This super funny but deep character appeared in two movies, The Force Awakens and Rise of the Skywalker.
The distinctive voice and flair of Maz Kanata was provided by Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o. Her physical movements were also used to create the CGI visuals for the character. With her Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave and a prominent place in the MCU Black Panther films, Nyong’o has quickly become a household name.
She’s also vocal about eradicating segregation and preventing harassment, plus she spends much of her time advocating for women’s and animal rights. Last year, Nyong’o was named among Africa’s “50 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes.
Supreme Leader Snoke
Supreme Leader Snoke is a fictional and artificial being in the Star Wars realm. He’s the Supreme Leader of the First Order. The character is very mysterious.
He prefers to contact his underlings from a mobile command post, instead of establishing any permanent operation base. Snoke gains his power with the dark side of the Force. This larger-than-life villain character prominently appeared in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
The professional motion-capture artist Andy Serkis played the CGI character of Snoke in both of the movies. Being that he portrays the character of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films — plus numerous animated characters in several other big franchises — it’s no surprise that Serkis is considered the ‘motion-capture maestro’ of Hollywood.
He also appeared in King Kong as well as the Planet of the Apes reboot series. Aside from that, Serkis keeps busy coaching many actors and actresses on performance-based motion-capture work.
Rio Durant was one of the prominent characters in one of the newer movies Solo: A Star Wars Story. He was the four-armed Ardennian pilot in the movie. He lived during the reign of the Galactic Empire.
The good-natured pilot was always ready for any challenge. Alongside the scoundrel Tobias Beckett, Rio Durant served as his pilot and carried out several dangerous missions and risky but profitable heists for years.
The person that played and voiced Rio Durant on the big screen is Jon Favreau — one of the most multi-talented artists in the American film industry. This actor, screenwriter, and director is a central figure within the MCU and is now occupying a more influential position in the Star Wars universe too.
He happens to be the producer and screenwriter of the new Disney + series, The Mandalorian. Favreau also gave voice to Pre Vizsla, the leader of the Death Guard in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Beloved Wookiee Chewbacca was Han Solo’s best mate and loyal co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. This legendary Wookiee warrior was part of a core group of Rebels who restored freedom to the galaxy.
Together, Han Solo and Chewbacca helped in saving the rebel alliance. Known for his precision with a bowcaster, Chewie is short-tempered but also has a kind heart and unyielding loyalty to his friends.
Peter Mayhew, Joonas Suotamo
7’3″ tall Peter Mayhew brought Chewbacca to life. Alongside the large stature, his epic grunts mostly helped make Chewie a fan-favorite character of the Star Wars universe. Mayhew played the character in all of his live-action appearances starting from the 1977 original — before retiring from the role due to knee problems.
7-foot-tall Finnish actor and former basketball player Joonas Suotamo stepped in to take over the role of Chewy for The Force Awakens. Since then, he has been playing the character.
Wicket Wystri Warrick/Wicket
Wicket Wystri Warrick — aka Wicket — appeared in Return of the Jedi. This furry little Ewok was a male scout and brave young warrior who willingly joined the side of rebels.
He watched the Uprising on Endor with his son Pommet, and then went on to aid the Rebel Alliance in the battle against Sheev Palpatine, who ruled Galactic Empire on the forest moon of Endor.
Wicket was played by British actor, comedian, and television presenter Warwick Davis — who rose to prominence in the ’80s for playing the titular role in Willow and the Leprechaun film series.
He’s now popularly identified by the younger generation as Professor Filius Flitwick and the goblin Griphook in the Harry Potter franchise. Davis was active within the industry since he was 12, which has earned him the position of the highest-grossing supporting actor of all time, excluding cameo appearances.