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In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke crashes his X-Wing on Dagobah after scanning the planet for technology and lifeforms.

LUKE (into comlink)

I'm not picking up any cities or technology. Massive life-form readings, though. There's something alive down there...

Followed by:

EXT. SPACE - DAGOBAH - LUKE'S X-WING

The X-wing continues its flight through the twilight above the cloud- covered planet.

INT. LUKE'S X-WING - COCKPIT

Luke sees the cloud race by as he takes his craft closer to the planet. He must operate his controls carefully since the cloud cover has completely obscured his vision. An alarm buzzes in the background, Artoo beeps and whistles frantically.

LUKE (into comlink)

I know, I know! All the scopes are dead. I can't see a thing! Just hang on, I'm going to start the landing cycle...

Source: The Empire Strikes Back script

According to Wookiepedia, Dagobah has a diameter of 8,900 km, which means that it has approximately 50% of the surface area of Earth. Landing randomly on the planet, it's unlikely he would land within walking distance of Yoda's hut.

How did Luke know where to land his X-Wing? From the script, it does not sound like he intentionally landed anywhere. Was he guided by the Force? Did Kenobi's Force ghost tell him where to land off-screen? Something else?

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This is just speculation but my guess is that Luke relied on his intuition which (although he didn't know it) was being guided heavily by the force. –  KennyPeanuts Mar 20 at 17:16
    
Flying through hyperspace without nav computer and arriving at Dagobah (or arriving anywhere alive at all) is similarly unlikely. –  Damon Mar 21 at 15:40
    
@Damon R2-D2 knew the location of Dagobah. Yoda took him to Dagobah decades ago. –  Sachin Shekhar Mar 22 at 15:35
    
@SachinShekhar: Even if that was so (which isn't the case), it is an astromech droid, not an astro-nav droid. The robot isn't navigating (it's explicitly said that Luke navigates without computer) –  Damon Mar 24 at 0:18
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@SachinShekhar: You cannot be serious. A joke movie's spin-off TV series? Not only that it was produced 30 years after The Empire Strikes Back, but like all TV series it was also written by a group of two dozen "hobby screenwriters" with Katie Lucas being the only ressemblance, if any, to the original movies (but only by her father's name, anyway). –  Damon Mar 24 at 11:09

9 Answers 9

up vote 32 down vote accepted

In the Canon-ish Thrawn novels, Luke returns to Dagobah. On arrival he notes that his sensors, which failed so spectacularly on his first trip are now working perfectly. He muses that it was probably Yoda who'd guided him to a soft swamp within easy walking distance of his home.

There was an affirmative twitter from the rear, the translation appearing across his computer scope. “Good,” Luke said, and turned his attention back to the cloud-shrouded planet rushing up to meet them. It was odd, he thought, how it had only been on that first trip in to Dagobah that the sensors had so totally failed on approach.

Or perhaps not so odd. Perhaps that had been Yoda, deliberately suppressing his instruments so as to be able to guide him unsuspectingly to the proper landing site.

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And to note, there is a (canon-ish) Force power specifically about mucking with electrical systems. This is how it described in KOTOR, but in theory it was also used in the droid uprising: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Ionize –  joshbirk Mar 20 at 19:52
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I like to think Yoda, with his very strong ability to predict the future, knew years in advance that Luke would have trouble finding his way on Dagobah due to sensor interference (solar flare, maybe?), and thus built his shack right next to the place he foretold Luke would crash land. –  Dungarth Mar 21 at 12:28
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@Dungarth - Clever, I like it :-) –  Richard Mar 21 at 12:53
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Damn, I had no idea Luke used Twitter to navigate. –  Robert Harvey Mar 21 at 17:28
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@RobertHarvey - twitter.com/lukeskywalker –  Richard Mar 21 at 17:29

The Force Did It

I put this in the same category as whether Jar Jar is an agent of The Force. Jar Jar is a complete moron who frequently seems to win the day despite himself and the fact that he is even still alive seems to indicate that The Force guides him. He's like the idiot savant of Force-sensitives, with an emphasis on idiot. This is even more evident in The Clone Wars TV show.

That Luke blindly lands so close to Yoda as to easily find him seems to be in the "trust in the force" zone, not entirely outside the realm of firing torpedoes into a ventilation shaft without computer assistance.

Out-of-universe, of course, Luke needs to find Yoda quickly since wandering around Dagobah would get boring fast.

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It's much easier for the Force to guide someone when pesky things like thinking don't get in the way. –  David Starkey Mar 20 at 21:55
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@DavidStarkey - The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded –  DVK Mar 21 at 2:28
    
I think we could probably close half of all Star Wars questions on this site with "The Force did it." –  Jamil Aug 17 at 3:24

In the last season of the Clone Wars cartoon, Yoda and R2 go to Dagobah. It could be that R2 subtly navigated Luke to the same part of the planet that he had already visited with Yoda before.

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Coincidence (and The Force) likely played a part in it.

The real answer though is that he didn't. As the quote you posted shows, he had no idea what Dagobah was like, or where to find Yoda - just that he had to go there and recieve training from a Jedi Master.

That Yoda managed to find him may have been Yoda's own guidance in the force, or perhaps yet-another major coincidence.

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I don’t think he landed randomly.

I'm not picking up any cities or technology. Massive life-form readings, though. There's something alive down there...

It could be that the area where Yoda lives is the only area on the planet with life-form readings (or “massive” life form readings). Admittedly, that seems unlikely.

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I'm not sure there is any way to describe Yoda as "massive". I always took that line to indicate Dagobah is teeming with life. –  joshbirk Mar 20 at 17:16
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@joshbirk: sure, although there is the creature that nearly drowns Luke after he lands. (If I’m remembering correctly?) It might be that Yoda’s swamp is teeming with life, and the rest of the planet isn’t. –  Paul D. Waite Mar 20 at 17:39
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I gotya, my misread. A good theory, though all planets in Star Wars seem to only be able to contain a single ecosystem :) –  joshbirk Mar 20 at 17:45
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Luke nearly drowns in the waste compactor after rescuing Leia. It's R2D2 who gets grabbed and then spat out by an unseen aquatic predator. –  Pompom78 Mar 20 at 18:56
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@Pompom78: right, I knew there was something. I bet that thing and Yoda hang out by a campfire every Friday night when Yoda hasn’t got guests. –  Paul D. Waite Mar 20 at 19:21

Poor screenwriting. The whole series, especially the first (last) episodes are full of terrible unbelievable coincidences and mistakes. If Darth Vader thinks he killed his wife, why is he later sure Luke is his son, and why is he not screaming pissed at the emperor if he does know Luke is his son? Why does Lea remember her mother if her mother died in childbirth? If Luke is in hiding on tattoine, why does he still use the name Skywalker? R2D2 saves kenobe's life several times, hangs out with the Droid for Years, yet doesn't remeber him in episode 4. Kenobe hasn't used the name Obe Wan "since before Luke was born", yet in episode 3 he clearly does. Giant anus in the desert on Tattoine takes 1000 years to digest someone. Really? What kind of threat is that when you die when you fall in? Why fire missles that turn into Droids that slowly disassemble an enemy ship? Why not just have them explode and kill your enemies? Should I go on for hours or stop now

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The information we need is contained within the movies, but needs to be carefully examined and considered to get the answer. The relevant items from the movies are:

On entering Dagobah's atmosphere, Luke's X-wing immediately loses all sensors. Luke quickly engages the "Landing Cycle", and almost immediately it seems the fighter has crashed through the tree canopy, into a swamp, and come to rest without serious injury to the occupants.

On Luke exiting the fighter, we see that it has come to rest about half submerged.

In the prequel trilogy, we see several instances of craft entering atmospheres at speed exhibiting a re-entry glow

In episode IV our first image of an X-wing in flight tells us it has anti gravity vertical take off and landing capabilities.

Yoda's mastery of the force enables him to easily stop heavy large objects in mid air and return them in the opposite direction with great speed, as demonstrated in episodes II and III.

In episode VI when returning to Yoda's home, Luke does not experience any difficulties on final approach.

What can we tell from this? From the beginning. Luke must have entered the atmosphere at low speed, using the anti grav capability to prevent accelerating beyond the x wing's maximum atmospheric speed. we can tell this as there is no reentry glow as he enters the atmosphere. On losing sensors while still at significant altitude, Luke barely has time to lower the landing gear before splashing into the swamp. From this we can deduce that Yoda has used the force to grab the x wing in mid flight and pull it almost straight down to a soft landing near his home. we can safely assume that with this level of power and control, Yoda can ensure the x wing doesn't hit the water with enough speed to cause much damage. This is backed up by later references and events. When Yoda lifts the X wing from the swamp, the landing gear is down and undamaged, this would have been ripped off had the fighter been moving with any significant speed.

We also find out Yoda has been watching Luke grow up light years away, and is able to speak at will with Obi Wan, so he clearly had plenty of notice that Luke was coming, and would have been able to influence the course of Luke's approach to Dagobah to an extent so that major course alterations would not be necessary. Later Yoda uses removing the X wing from the swamp as a highly significant lesson in the true power and nature of the Force. We can take from this that Yoda planned for the x wing to land in the swamp in order to give this lesson, and also to remove Luke's access to some of the supplies onboard, in order that his training be more impactful due to Luke's having to endure adversity and discomfort.

Further information to support this can be taken from the apparent density of Dagobah's atmosphere, as seen in the humid misty swamp. this would indicate that Dagobah's atmosphere is roughly the same density at ground level as Earth, as these are similar to Eartly swamp conditions. Earth's atmosphere is about 60 miles high, so given the short time the X wing takes to get from orbit to ground, without severe damage or reentry glow, we can deduce that it did not enter at high forward speed, and having traversed 60 miles of height in no more that a few minutes, there must have been intelligent control of this descent. We can also deduce that this intelligent control was not by the X Wing's flight systems, as sensors were down, and had they been able to detect the ground enough to slow descent to a safe speed, it would not have crashed through trees and landed in the swamp with the speed that it did.

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TLDR but, +1 for landing safety in VI. –  Mazura Sep 19 at 5:27

If you take the films as the entire cannon, I think Luke just happening on Yoda's hut thing is essentially part of the motif of fate. Luke was 'destined' to meet Yoda. It was unavoidable.

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That doesn't really explain how he knew where to land. Waving your hand airily in the air and saying "it's fate" is quite a lazy answer. –  Richard Mar 21 at 15:08

This is an easy one,

THE FORCE.

If you see in the film as Luke is checking his instruments, he also looks quite serious as if he knows something that we dont. Anyone else would have crashed into thousand bits.

Although he says "I cant see a thing" and "Starting the landing cycle" he was probably responding to R2 in some general way.

The "I know, I know!" was the reply to R2 meaning "Cool, Im using the Force i know where im going, i know we are about to crash but rest assured im here to become a Jedy, so keeps you pants on"

Like sometimes when we drive in thick Fog, we say "i cant see a thing" but we manage to drive on anyway. Maybe we are using the Force.

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Sure, who'd not be excited on the prospect of becoming a Jedy. –  bitmask Mar 25 at 21:16

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