Even if the implementation of these ideas is some way off yet, there is now a door open to a different kind of exploration, and the prospects for future generations are tantalising indeed.
NASA Engineering Directorate boffin Dr. Harold White is certain that just maybe a real life warp drive is theoretically possible – so much so that his team has already begun working to make one a reality. This so-called Advanced Propulsion Theme team consider that humanity, despite technological advances, is still in the stone-age when it comes to space travel.
Current propulsion technologies make interstellar travel an impossibility – experimental ion thrusters or even controlled nuclear explosions would need so much fuel and mass to reach even the nearest star that the ship could only be built in space, and would be gigantic.
Not only that, but the journey could only be completed by descendants of those setting out, because hundreds of years might be involved. All these considerations render interstellar travel an impossible dream, so what human science needs is a means of travelling extremely fast within the laws of physics.
In an exciting and tantalising kind of breakthrough moment, Dr. White, along with others, has found some mathematical equation loopholes indicating the actual possibility of really warping the space-time fabric. Deep within the Johnson Space Centre skunk-works operation that is
NASA Eagleworks his team have now initiated an interferometer test bed – using a White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer – attempting to both generate and detect a little warp bubble, which if successful has huge implications.
Proof of existence any scientific idea practical application can prove a tipping point in development of technology, and in creating one of these warp bubbles, a spacecraft engine would compress space ahead and expand that space behind. This would have the effect of moving the craft physically to another place – though in reality it would not itself move at all – with none of the adverse effects of other kinds of travel.
Dr. White refers to this phenomenon as the harnessing of the physics of cosmic inflation, so that any craft satisfying these mathematical equation laws could move unimaginably fast without adverse effects of any kind – thus – assuming research proves the validity, that man could create an engine able to reach Alpha Centauri in two weeks – earth time – though aboard the craft it will seem much less.
Since within the spaceship, he claims, there will not be tidal forces – the craft being inside the bubble – proper acceleration is zero, so that when in operation those inside will notice no difference, or be in any way subject to the laws of acceleration. There must be vast amounts of energy involved, you might cry, but in fact Dr. White and his team have found an interesting solution.
Energy requirements, it seems, turn out to be much lower than previously thought. If warp bubble thickness were optimized and intensity oscillated – to reduce the stiffness of space time fabric – the team calculate that a mere 500 kilograms of fuel could power a 33ft craft at ten times the speed of light.
The upper limits for multiples of light-speed are unknown, but the ships themselves do NOT ever pass light-speed, even if the appearance suggests otherwise. With such technology in place, at 10c – 10X light-speed – it could take as little as 4 years to make a return trip to a planet 20 light-years away, but at 100X light-speed, it could done in five months.
Even if the implementation of these ideas is some way off yet, there is now a door open to a different kind of exploration, and the prospects for future generations are tantalising indeed. Star Trek might become reality much sooner than ever thought possible.