According to legendary sci-fi TV franchise Star Trek, the human race has until 2063 to develop warp propulsion technology. And given that we’re about 50 years away from that date, it’s nice to hear that NASA is finally working to make the technology a reality.
Warp propulsion is based on a theory that an object (like a spaceship) can move at speeds many times faster than the speed of light to go vast distances through space. It’s currently believed that if something reaches light speed, it would transform into energy and thus cease being whatever it used to be.
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Not only that, but the fuel cost and time it would take to travel would make space voyages pretty unrealistic. However, warp propulsion gets around these obstacles by placing a spaceship within a warp field “bubble” of normal space, while the space surrounding the bubble moves extremely fast — basically warping the fabric of space-time. [Feel free to correct/improve my oversimplified definition in the comments, Trekkers.]
Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for NASA Engineering Directorate Harold White says creating technology to accomplish warp propulsion (a warp drive) is absolutely possible, and he’s even started work on creating it, according to an essay he recently published on the Icarus Interstellar blog.
“Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility,” White writes.
White explains that his team is currently working on complex math equations to help create and discover microscopic instances of these “warp bubbles.” If the results from his team’s experiments prove successful, it could be possible to create a warp engine capable of interstellar space travel. For perspective, he uses the example of traveling to Alpha Centauri (the closest star system to Earth) in just two weeks in Earth time.
You’d think we were still pretty far from interstellar travel, as we’ve only traveled to the moon, landed our curiosity rover on Mars, and have one international space station.
Well, that might be true, but we’ve got 50 years before we meet the Vulcans. Who knows what we’ll accomplish by then.
h/t to Gizmodo