Sep. 20, 2013 at 6:18 PM ET
Han Solo was famously, and creepily, frozen in carbonite in "The Empire Strikes Back." And ever since then, the gruesome image of the dashing pilot stretched out and trapped has become a pop-culture icon. There are even ice-cube trays and iPhone cases bearing the image.
And now NASA has joined the fun, distributing a photo taken back in 2011 on the surface of Mercury and titled, "He Will Not Be Permanently Damaged," after a line from the film.
Who knew rocket scientists could have so much run with a photo of a lumpy planet surface that only vaguely looks like a gray human figure with arms and legs outstretched?
Wrote NASA, "If there are two things you should remember, it's not to cross a Hutt, and that Mercury's surface can throw up all kinds of surprises. In this image, a portion of the terrain surrounding the northern margin of the Caloris basin hosts an elevated block in the shape of a certain carbonite-encased smuggler who can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs."
The image has been making its way around the Web, entertaining "Star Wars" geeks and conspiracy theorists alike. Wrote Her Nibs on unexplained-mysteries.com, "Nope, can't be. Han was rescued from the carbonite. Jeesh. What kind of geeks are you guys?"
To which a reader using the name Waspie_Dwarf responded, "That's what "they" want you to believe. I can't believe you fell for rebel propaganda."
Fans of Han Solo, whether on Mercury or not, are hoping to see him again in the upcoming new trilogy of "Star Wars" movies, announced back in February. Actor Harrison Ford has had some fun with the rumors that he'll reprise his classic role.