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The escape pod ejected from the Tantive IV landed pretty close to where Luke and Obi-Wan were living, within a day or two travel at low speed from each of them.

Was this a coincidence or the result of some sort of deliberate action, for example, Leia telling R2-D2 where to land or as a result of the pod itself homing onto a signal from the nearby spaceport at Mos Eisley?

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    Possibly escape pods are programmed to land in vicinity of nearest population center?
    – Alith
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 19:25
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    @Alith I realize it's a speculative answer, but that makes all kinds of sense.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 19:55
  • @Alith - Yes, the Complete Vehicles book says that they have autopilot to take them to the nearest inhabited planet; books.google.nl/…
    – Valorum
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 19:55
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    do we know it was close? All we know is that they were picked up by Jawas who took / drove them who knows how far to be sold
    – NKCampbell
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 21:17
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    @NKCampbell - pasteboard.co/J71OQ3j.png found it
    – Valorum
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 22:54

2 Answers 2

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Short Answer - We don't know exactly

Long(er) answer

It would be sensible for an Escape Pod to be automated and programmed to establish the nearest population center (which could be one that contains a spaceport, or some other criteria if no such spaceport exists on the nearest planet from where the Escape Pod is launched.)

Again this is an unknown, or is not covered in any of the material that I can find. Of course as we are dealing with a movie and Star Wars sense may/may not be relevant :).

There are a couple of points that I've thought about while discussing over the comments, so I thought I would write them out.

Point 1.

I've found a copy of the screenplay for Star Wars here. The relevant section of the screenplay doesn't really give us any great information.

INT. REBEL BLOCKADE RUNNER - SUBHALLWAY

Artoo stops before the small hatch of an emergency lifepod. He snaps the seal on the main latch and a red warning light begins to flash. The stubby astro-robot works his way into the cramped four-man pod.

THREEPIO Hey, you're not permitted in there. It's restricted. You'll be deactivated for sure..

Artoo beeps something to him.

THREEPIO (CONT’D) Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease! Now come out before somebody sees you.

Artoo whistles something at his reluctant friend regarding the mission he is about to perform.

THREEPIO (CONT’D) Secret mission? What plans? What are you talking about? I'm not getting in there!

Artoo isn't happy with Threepio's stubbornness, and he beeps and twangs angrily.

A new explosion, this time very close, sends dust and debris through the narrow subhallway. Flames lick at Threepio and, after a flurry of electronic swearing from Artoo, the lanky robot jumps into the lifepod.

THREEPIO (CONT’D) I'm going to regret this.

INT. IMPERIAL STARDESTROYER

On the main viewscreen, the lifepod carrying the two terrified robots speeds away from the stricken Rebel spacecraft.

CHIEF PILOT There goes another one.

CAPTAIN Hold your fire. There are no life forms. It must have been short- circuited.

INT. LIFEPOD

Artoo and Threepio look out at the receding Imperial starship. Stars circle as the pod rotates through the galaxy.

THREEPIO That's funny, the damage doesn't look as bad from out here.

Artoo beeps an assuring response.

THREEPIO (CONT’D) Are you sure this things safe?

At this point the screenplay switches to a discarded scene where Luke wakes up Biggs to watch the ship battle. The information here confirms that droids are not generally allowed on escape pods, but doesn't hint that any programming of the pod to aim for a specific destination has been made.

Point 2.

The link that @Valorum found for the Escape Pod specifications is also informative but not fully indicative one way or the other.

Automatic Pilot: Although most Escape Pods are equipped with a simple piloting station, the shipboard systems are heavily automated, enabling the pod to find and travel to the nearest habitable planet without a pilot at the controls.

To my mind, this would suggest that Escape Pods are automated because:

  • There may be no pilot included in the escapees, or the pilot on board could be incapacitated.

  • Escape Pods are not designed for long term use or manoeuvrability, simply to get to a place of "safety" as quickly as possible.

  • Any propellant for the manoeuvring jets would be in limited supply.

However the inclusion of simple piloting controls could mean that a pilot can override the automated landing sequence, depending on terrain that is identified as hazardous during the landing phase. The page on the Escape Pod specifications doesn't provide any details as to how much those "simple controls" allow to override the automated systems.

In my personal opinion those "simple controls" would only be used for an emergency change of landing zone.

So far nothing I've found suggests that R2-D2 was attempting to pilot it to Obi Wan.

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This is addressed by Pablo Hidalgo in Star Wars Insider #73, referencing the Star Wars Radio Drama. Leia knew precisely where to find Obi-Wan. She told R2-D2 the address and he then piloted the escape pod to that location, more or less.

Q. How did Leia know her message would get to Obi-Wan? Did she know her ship was above Tatooine? If so, how did she know that the droids could even find Obi-Wan? If they landed on the other side of the planet, it could have taken them years to find him.

PH: Leia specifically went to Tatooine searching for Obi-Wan because her adoptive father, Bail Organa, knew that he was there. She even had an address. As she programmed R2-D2 with her holographic plea, she told the droid, “He's located in the vicinity of standardized coordinates c-1734-μ-9033, first quadrant.” Artoo plugged those coordinates into the escape pad that he and Threepio took to the surface.

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