Warp drive seems more like the fantasy world of Captain Kirk, but it might not be for long.
NASA scientists are working on a way to power a spacecraft to distant solar systems with the use of warp drive, a fictional faster-than-light propulsion system that became popular due to the Star Trek series.
So far the biggest hang up has been powering the high-tech propulsion system. Physicists previously dismissed the idea of speed-of-light travel, because the power source would be impractical or too expensive.
Scientists say they might have found loop holes that prove warp drive is possible without breaking the principles of physics.
Under the theory, a propulsion system could use so-called warp bubbles to compress the space ahead and expand the space behind it, according to Discovery News. If it worked, the spacecraft could be moved without actually moving.
A donut-shaped ring made of exotic matter would encircle the spacecraft, and as a result, the power source would be relatively small – about the size of Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.
“The finding I presented today changes it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation,” Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center said, according to Discovery News. “The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab.”
But before you starting taking dibs on the roles of Scotty or Capt. Kirk, the technology isn’t at an advanced stage.
White and other scientists are working to create a small-scale demonstration of warp drive at the Johnson Space Center. The team is trying to detect the tiny microscopic instance of a warp bubble using a special instrument.
If they confirm these warp bubbles, it could mean a big step toward warp drive.
According to Gizmodo, it means scientists could develop an engine that could get us to Alpha Centauri, a star believed to have orbiting plants, “in two weeks as measured by clocks here on Earth.”
The principles of the idea also mean that the passengers wouldn’t experience any adverse effects.