It seems like something out of Star Trek, but a team at NASA is hard at work on developing real warp drive (or faster-than-light travel), and artist renderings of the proposed ship look stunning.
In 2010, Dr. Harold "Sonny" White revealed that he, along with a team at NASA's Johnson Space Center, are hard at work on developing a functional warp drive. After collaborating with artist Mark Rademaker, White was able to show what a possible warp drive ship may look like (Rademaker's images are viewable here), and fans of Star Trek will not be disappointed, as i09 reports. The ship, affectionately named the IXS Enterprise for the drawings, looks like a vessel straight out of the cult science fiction show, which popularized the concept of travel between the stars. A subtle saucer section, which is an intentional nod to the show, sits cradled between two gigantic rings.
Those rings are key to how the proposed warp drive ship would work, and constitute the heart of the concept. According to Gizmodo, White and his team have developed new theories to fix problems in the Alcubierre Drive concept. Originally posited by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, the concept would allow for faster-than-light travel, despite Einstein's theory of relativity, which quite famously argues that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.
The Alcubierre concept would sidestep relativity in a curious manner. A warp drive ship would bend the fabric of space around itself, shortening the distance to be traveled. The ship, held between the two rings that generate the warp field, would never actually travel faster than light, moving slower at the local level and leaving Einstein's theory intact.
While it may seem like fiction, Dr.White's work at NASA is real science, and his team has already started work to generate and detect a tiny "warp bubble." They believe this proof-of-concept, if accomplished, will generate a "tipping point for technology development," citing the "Chicago pile" that proved a controlled nuclear reaction could exist.
Dr.White has previously speculated that "perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility," and in that belief, he is hardly alone. As The Inquisitr has previously reported, the proliferation of Star Trek inspired technology is blurring the lines between the science fiction show and reality.
In a lecture at the SpaceVision 2013 conference, White laid out a plan for interstellar travel that could see astronauts journeying to our closest neighbor star, Alpha Centauri, in just two weeks time, instead of the 4.36 years that light takes to make the trip. NASA's warp drive ship could very well be the "wessel" to take them there.
[Images via Gizmodo]