A warp drive is under way at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and while the work is still in the beginning stages, it's not hard to imagine what these spaceships would look like.
"Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility," said Dr. White, the lead scientist on the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate. His team is currently working on creating tiny warp bubbles that would, when large enough, bend space around a ship to create faster-than-light travel.
In theory, we would be able to travel to Alpha Centauri, which is 4.367 light years away, in just two weeks. And it may be possible within our lifetime.
Without violating the first law of Einstein, "Thou shalt not travel faster than the speed of light," scientists have found loopholes in the laws of physics that would allow us to bend space.
How do these warp bubbles work? Imagine that you are in a race. The race track is 100 miles long, and your opponent's car can go 25 mph. But your car can only go 10 mph. The other car would obviously finish the race faster.
But, if you knew of a shortcut that made the race only 20 miles long, you could complete the race faster than the other car, and you would only travel a portion of the distance.
However, before we can blast off in to the unknown, the technology of the warp bubble has to be created and observed. As Dr. White said:
"Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space time-a "Chicago pile" moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a ~ four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development."
Dr. Harold "Sonny" White worked with 3-D illustrator Mark Rademaker to create concept art for what warp travel could look like. All I can say is, "Make it so."
All images come from Mark Rademaker's Flickr account, yard2380.
The first image is the original concept. The following images were remakes of the original design to more accurately reflect the math involved. The rings will theoretically create the warp bubble, nestling the spaceship safely inside.