Yestrday I watched "A New Hope" again. I noticed that at the beginning, when R2-D2 and C-3PO escape in the escape pod, the empire checks for life forms on the pod, and finds there are none.

Later, when the Millennium Falcon is pulled by the Death Star's tractor beam, they send stormtroopers to look for those boarding the ship. Why didn't they use the same technology used before to check for life forms?


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    As technology improves, technology to fool technology improves.
    – Jeff
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 18:52
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    even more confusing: what did Han expect the Empire to think when they boarded the ship and found no one piloting it?
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 1:06
  • @MichaelEdenfield - see indiv's comment on Mario's answer Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 8:46
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    Could it be that since the escape pod was built by the empire, the scanning technology was actually built-in? So when they wanted to know about life forms on the pod, they simply activated the built-in mechanism and received the results. That would explain why they couldn't do the same for the Millennium Falcon. Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 10:17
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    @ItamarMarom The Empire didn't build the Rebel Tantive IV's escape pods— Corellian Engineering Corporation did: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Tantive_IV Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 13:28

3 Answers 3


If you recall, the general high level objective was to make it LOOK like an effort to capture them, but in reality, the endgoal was to plant a homing beacon on the Falcon, let Princess Leia escape and lead Death Star straight to the Rebel Base.

From ANH script:


Darth Vader strides into the control room, where Tarkin is watching the huge view screen. A sea of stars is before him.

TARKIN: Are they away?

VADER: They have just made the jump into hyperspace.

TARKIN: You're sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I'm taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work.

As such, the goal that Vader and Tarkin had was in no was served by actually finding and killing the smugglers on the Falcon. Merely making a good show of trying to.

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    Interesting - never thought about this (although I'm not really sure the "homing beacon" is even in the German dub).
    – Mario
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 16:17
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    Interesting theory - but I think the script supports Kevin's answer a bit more: they were hiding in shielded compartments. Vader and Tarkin's plan was probably formulated after they knew Kenobi and the others were aboard the Death Star.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 1:10
  • @HorusKol - Actually I think that each answer is Half of the whole answer.
    – Chad
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:36
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    @HorusKol - Exactly. When the Falcon was initially brought on board, they had no expectation that Leia would be rescued. It's debatable how widespread knowledge of Leia's capture was, too - or at least that she was on the Death Star (which had largely been 'secret' up to this point). Once it became obvious that an escape attempt was underway, however, then the homing beacon was planted. I can't recall anything that made it seem like the falsified log was disbelieved. Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 17:56
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    @dvk isn't that par for the course?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 14:16

They did scan the ship:

VADER: I sense something...a presence I haven't felt since...

Vader turns quickly and exits the hangar.

OFFICER: Get me a scanning crew in here on the double. I want every part of this ship checked!

Remember, Han is one of the best smugglers there are, you'll recall the secret compartments:


A trooper runs through the hallway heading for the exit. In a few moments all is quiet. The muffled sounds of a distant officer giving orders finally fade. Two floor panels suddenly pop up revealing Han Solo and Luke. Ben Kenobi sticks his head out of a third locker.

LUKE: Boy, it's lucky you had these compartments.

HAN: I use them for smuggling. I never thought I'd be smuggling myself in them. This is ridiculous. Even if I could take off, I'd never get past the tractor beam.

Those compartments were created and designed to hide their contents from imperial scanners.


I'd just say story writing.

But on a second thought they might have thought of some possible shielding technology or similar, given the fact it's the ship of a known smuggler and not just some standard-issue escape pod. But at the same time, they didn't check for hidden caches or anything like that either. So I'd just assume they've had the idea to look for someone hiding in there, but they didn't expect them to hide that well (or Han was simply too smart for them). After all it's obviously been a hideaway officials haven't found yet (while smuggling). Actually, not sure about this part yet, I think they leave their hideout before they're finished searching the ship? That case I'd just stick to "they wanted to make sure there's noone hiding".

Oh, and not to forget one thing: They had no reason to assume the ship is empty. In fact, they obviously were sure there's someone in there. The escape pod could start on its own, but the Millenium Falcon obviously couldn't. Also keep in mind we don't know whether they scanned the ship. They probably scanned it and even knew someone is in there, but they had to have a closer look onto where they hide (and that's the part they storm the ship).

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    They did have reason to assume the ship is empty: OFFICER: (to Vader) There's no one on board, sir. According to the log, the crew abandoned ship right after takeoff. It must be a decoy, sir. Several of the escape pods have been jettisoned. (Naturally they were skeptical and that's why they brought the scanning crew on board)
    – indiv
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 1:34
  • Ah, now you're mentioning it...
    – Mario
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 9:59

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