Colin Cantwell, designer of the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and other iconic spaceships, has died

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Colin Cantwell, lead starship designer for Star Wars and CBS analyst for the moon landing, has died. His partner, Sierra Dall, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he died at home in Colorado on Saturday.

Cantwell worked with George Lucas to draw and build prototypes for various Star Wars spacecraft, creating memorable designs that would continue being featured in subsequent movies and games. His designs include the TIE Fighter, X-Wing, Y-Wing, Tantive IV, sandcrawler, landspeeder, and Death Star.

Cantwell also worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and WarGames, for which he created the computer graphics dramatizing a nuclear launch that would later inspire DEFCON.

Before his career in Hollywood, Cantwell had worked for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on educational programs, which is how he ended up becoming CBS’s lead analyst for the broadcast of the moon landing. It was Cantwell’s job to handle communications between NASA and news anchor Walter Cronkite.

In a Reddit AMA from 2016, Cantwell recalled the creation of the Death Star. “I didn’t originally plan for the Death Star to have a trench,” he wrote, “but when I was working with the mold, I noticed the two halves had shrunk at the point where they met across the middle. It would have taken a week of work just to fill and sand and re-fill this depression. So, to save me the labor, I went to George and suggested a trench. He liked the idea so much that it became one of the most iconic moments in the film!” 

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