In the beginning of The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn were sent by the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic to discuss a settlement to stop the Trade Federation from blockading the planet Naboo, but were attacked by the Trade Federation on the orders of Darth Sidious. After surviving the attack, they managed to escaped to Naboo by stowing away on a Trade Federation invasion ship heading to Naboo. The invasion army was made up of battle droids, so there shouldn't have been a need to pressurize the cabins, or pipe in oxygen. How, then, did they survive the trip to Naboo?

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    Well, they did have those oxygen breather thingies that they used underwater
    – CHEESE
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:13
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    @CHEESE I was thinking about those, but it's unclear how those work. Do they take O2 out of the water? They don't appear to have attached oxygen tanks. Also, they shouldn't help for pressure.
    – Shokhet
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:15
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    For the record, how they survive isn't mentioned in the Official Novelisation, Junior Novelisation, Cine-Manga graphic novel, Tokyopop Manga Graphic Novel, Official tie-in Graphic Novel, Phantom Menace Adventures comic serial or the official Movie Storybook. All of them simply have the Jedi boarding the ships, then getting out again shortly afterwards on the planet's surface.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 22:10
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    Used the force, he did
    – user13267
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 2:04
  • It was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. The laws pf physics that we take for granted may not have applied. e.g. Medichloriants don't exist in our galaxy.
    – user65462
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:27

4 Answers 4


The film's tie-in "Incredible Cross-Sections" book states that the design of the landing craft wasn't bespoke, it was based on an earlier design for a cargo ship, one intended to be staffed by a living, breathing crew.

That being the case, trying to vacuum-proof a ship that was originally intended to contain an atmosphere would present a number of fairly obvious design difficulties

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    +1, good answer. -1 for not hand-drawing the rectangle.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 17:03
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    I would upvote but you are at +42 and I don't want to spoil that.
    – Pwassonne
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 21:44
  • @Pwassonne - A few more votes and I'll be at +69
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 11:44

While a robot may not require oxygen to function, that does not mean it is vacuum-compatible. Many materials are perfectly ok at normal to low air pressures but will outgas at near-vacuum pressures. The consequences range from nothing to popping open like a bad tire. Lubricating products are particularly troublesome, and we don't want the grease boiling away and rupturing the joints. The item also has to be free of sealed internal voids or the shell of those voids needs to be able to contain the pressure difference. This is obviously much more difficult and expensive to design.

The same would apply to the cargo area of any transport vessel. Parts of the ship that must be exposed to vacuum are designed as such, other parts get the cheaper treatment.

So, if you are designing a machine for use exclusively within an atmosphere, it is simply easier to transport it within a compatible atmosphere.

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    Also worth mentioning, it is very hard to cool electronics in a vacuum, since there is no medium to transfer the heat over. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:06
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    Counter-point: I'm pretty sure that in episode 2 of the Clone Wars we see battle droids functioning properly (albeit clumsily) while in the void of space
    – Luke
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 21:18
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    If I was designing the ship I would probably use pure nitrogen for such compartments, and get longer lifetimes out of pretty much everything. Oxygen is nasty stuff, no sense including it if it's not needed :)
    – hobbs
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 5:44
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    @hobbs But then you'd have to go to the trouble of pumping oxygen out (or nitrogen in). With a normal atmosphere, you can just use the parent ship's air. With a vacuum, you could just not bother making the transport airtight. With pure nitrogen, you have extra work that may not be worth the gain.
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 15:03
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    @Shokhet - R2D2 (and others) were astromech droids, designed to work in the vacuum of space (to perform necessary repairs etc). Battle Droids - or at least the ones built to target Naboo - might not necessarily be designed to be used in near vacuum.
    – Robotnik
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 1:47

It took about an hour to land the Space Shuttle; given Star Wars technology I have to assume the invasion ships could do so far more quickly. According to these calculations a single cubic meter of air will last one person for two hours, so assuming the ships were pressurized there would be more than enough air.

Why would they be pressurized? Well, for one thing, the mother ship was pressurized (presumably due to the presence of all of those pesky humanoids) so if you wanted to load the landing craft from the mother ship it would be much more convenient for them to be pressurized too. Also, the landing craft might sometimes need to be piloted by or to carry humanoids, so they need to be designed to be pressurized; having them pressurized only some of the time would probably complicate the design.

Even more importantly, as Royal Canadian Bandit points out in the comments, if the ship held vacuum you'd have to repressurize after landing before the droids could exit. In the meantime, they'd be sitting ducks.

  • And never mind: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Pilot_droid
    – Shokhet
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:48
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    Excellent find. So you won't necessarily need a humanoid pilot - but it might still be a good idea to have the option, just in case you run out of pilot droids. :-) Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:51
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    +1. The landing ship doesn't need equipment to maintain a breathable atmosphere. Temperature is likely to be a consideration; the ship will heat up from atmospheric friction on re-entry, and you want the droids sealed in to keep them cool. Finally, if the interior of the ship is in vacuum, you would have to repressurise when you landed, which would be inconvenient. All in all, it makes sense to just build an airtight box. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 8:23
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    I'd argue that a faction with breathing commanders and robotic lackeys would still ensure most, if not all of their smaller craft contained pressurized atmospheres so that said breathing commanders could simply hop into the closest functioning one in an emergency. Restricting what resources those breathing commanders could utilize would be... inconvenient at best.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 17:07

I think temperature would be a larger concern. There's no reason to heat a ship with droids (presumably you would dehumidify the ship to prevent condensation). Granted this is Legends, but Kyp Durron ejected in a message pod and was subjected to the extreme cold of space (short term), but survived

Durron realized that he would be unable to escape the black hole and rushed to one of the craft's message pods. Utilizing the Force to deaden the vast pain, Durron crammed himself into the message pod, the inside of which could barely hold a child. Despite the breakage of many of his bones, including those in his limbs and ribcage, Durron managed to squeeze himself in to the message pod and placed himself in a hibernation trance.. The pod fired away from the doomed Sun Crusher as the superweapon spiraled into the black hole.

When they discovered Durron's broken body in the message pod, Solo and Calrissian were shocked at the extent of Durron's injuries and pried him out of the small container. The young Jedi opened his eyes long enough to check that the two superweapons had been destroyed before sinking back into his hibernation trance to heal.

We already know canon Jedi can force themselves into a state where they breathe less. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume a canon Jedi could survive a short term temperature drop.

  • In this case, we're talking about re-entry, so overheating seems more likely to be a problem than freezing. But I think that in real-world space travel the problem isn't keeping the interior of the vessel from becoming too hot so much as keeping the hull from becoming too hot. Star Wars vessels must have solved the latter problem, perhaps via some kind of energy shield. The details don't matter too much - regardless of what it is exactly that keeps the hull from overheating, it would almost certainly keep the interior from overheating as a side-effect. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 23:15
  • they land with thrusters/antigrav/whatever operating, that means they don't need to air brake so there's not the same friction heating caused.
    – Jasen
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 5:23

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