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(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Rogue One. Consult the Force before you proceed)
Back in 1977, the world was thrilled by the first installment of Star Wars. A New Hope pitted a desperate Rebellion against the military might of the Empire, with Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker launching a desperate mission against the Death Star. That mission had one critical problem, though — one that's been mocked ever since A New Hope. Now, incredibly, #RogueOne has actually subtly rewrote the events of A New Hope, and in doing so, resolved the greatest problem in the entire Star Wars franchise!
What's The Problem?
We all know the story of #ANewHope — the Rebels manage to get their hands on the Death Star plans, and analyze them to find a weakness. They discover an unusual one — the Death Star has an exhaust port, and a precise shot will send a missile straight down the port and into the reactor. One example of perfect marksmanship is all it would take to trigger a chain reaction and destroy the Death Star.
It's one of the most mocked aspects of the #StarWars franchise. Who would build a superweapon and make it so vulnerable? The Death Star's weakness perfectly suits the nature of the Rebel fleet — they have a lot of snubfighters, including, of course, the famous X-Wings. When you stop and think about it, this particular weakness strains the bounds of credibility.
'Rogue One' Resolves The Problem
Now, thanks to Rogue One, we know the reason for this vulnerability. The Empire unwittingly invited a Rebel sympathizer to play a key role in the Death Star project. As we learned in the official prelude novel Catalyst, Galen Erso's knowledge of Kyber Crystals (which power the superweapon) is unparalleled. Galen's old friend Director Orson Krennic had always underestimated him, and so Galen learned to lie; and lie he did — with skill — as he manipulated the entire Death Star project to introduce a critical weakness to the superweapon.
Of course, Krennic's trust only went so far. With loyal Imperial scientists working under him, Erso had no choice but to make the weakness a subtle one. As we learned in Rogue One, he carefully structured the Death Star's Kyber-powered reactor to have a critical weakness: One explosion was all it would take to cause an explosive chain reaction.
This also explains why the Rebels could be confident that just a single missile could do the job — they already knew that Galen had ensured the reactor was primed to blow.
I have little doubt that the critical exhaust port was also part of Galen's design; but what he couldn't influence were the Death Star security measures. The finished Death Star was bristling with defensive weaponry, with the trench run to the exhaust port heavily guarded. Galen could only hope that the Rebels had skilled enough pilots to make that trench run. Fortunately for him, the Force was strong with Luke Skywalker.
The destruction of the Death Star is, ultimately, Galen's revenge against the Empire. Of course, the Empire would try again; by Return of the Jedi they had built a second Death Star. But the critical weakness was still there, and although the Empire knew enough not to make the mistake with the exhaust port, the reactor was still primed to blow with a single shot. The truth is that the Empire never learned to correct the vulnerability Galen Erso introduced, and as a result, two Death Stars fell to Rebel forces. All thanks to Galen Erso's genius.