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Where Have All the Jedi gone?
An early 'viral' phenomenon, the Jedi faith is fading fast
In 2001, Jediism was the fourth biggest religion in England and Wales. That same year, fully 1.5% of New Zealanders came out as adherents of the Force, the highest percentage anywhere in the world. Had the new religion's meteoric rise persisted, it would surely have been one of the world's biggest by now. But the wave crested. Where have all the Jedi gone?
Jediism is not a 'real' religion. It is based on the spirituality of the Jedi Knights in the fictional Star Wars universe. But how exactly is the Jedi faith any less real than other religions? Aren't they all, in essence, equally fictional? That of course was the point being made by all those people filling in 'Jedi' on their census forms. Spreading like wildfire from 2001 onwards, the Jedi census drive was one of the first 'viral' online phenomena to go truly global.
In 2001, the Australian census noted more than 70,000 individuals as Jedi, or 0.37% of the population. The Canadian census that same year recorded 21,000 Jedi Knights. No less than 53,000 New Zealanders listed themselves as Jedi, leading to the aforementioned record 1.5%. With those numbers, Jediism was New Zealand's second-largest religion, ahead of Buddhism and Hinduism (both 1.2%).
In 2001 in England and Wales, 390,127 people (almost 0.8%) identified as Jedi – more than Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. In absolute numbers, it was the biggest Jedi population in any country. Jedi was Britain's fourth religion, after Christianity (70%), Islam (3.1%) and Hinduism (2.1%). The Jedi Jerusalem was Brighton, where a whopping 2.6% of those surveyed adhered to the Jedi faith.
This map is a snapshot of Jediism's high water mark in Britain. The Force was particularly strong in southern counties, and noticeably absent in the north. The most Jediist counties were Dorset, Hampshire, East Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Greater London. Another hotbed straddling the Severn is comprised of one Welsh county, South Glamorgan, and an English one, Avon. In all these counties, Jedi religionists made up between 0.93 and 1.40% of the total.
Although there's a noticeable northward salient through central England, with Jedi centres in Nottinghamshire and to a lesser extent in South and West Yorkshire, the north is weak in the Force. That pattern is repeated north of the border: only 0.28% of Scots declared themselves to be Jedi in the 2001 census.
But Jediism proved a fickle religion. In subsequent censuses in most countries, it shrank fast. The 2006 census in New Zealand returned only 20,000 kiwi Jedi. By 2011, the number of Canadian Jedi had dropped to 9,000. In Australia, the Jedi numbered just over 58,000 in 2006 – although their ranks increased again to 65,000 by 2011. In the 2011 census of England and Wales, the number of Jedi had more than halved, to 176,632 faithful, putting the creed in 7th place.
The Jedi census movement may be a fading fad, but the Star Wars religion still has some real-life rallying power. In 2015, Turkish students protested the building of mosques on their campus by demanding the construction of Jedi and Buddhist temples as well.
Map found here on Wikipedia.
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Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
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Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
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