NASA has toyed with the idea of the possibility of faster-than-light speed spaceships for a number of years. One of the space administration’s skunk works has been working on it since Gene Rodenberry made it the means by which interstellar space travel was realized in the movie and television science fiction adventures of Star Trek.
Back in 2010 a NASA team at the Johnson Space Center revealed concept drawings showing what a warp drive space ship would look like. Unlike the USS Enterprise, a future warp drive vessel would probably feature very large torus-like rings surrounding the central habitat and workings of the ship. These rings would generate the warp field, bending space around the ship so that it could travel within a bubble isolated from surrounding space and at speeds faster than light.
Albert Einstein stated that nothing in the Universe can exceed the speed of light. In his theory of special relativity he postulated that as an object accelerates it increases in mass. At the speed of light an object would have infinite mass. That’s why the speed of light is deemed to be the physical limit for matter traveling through space.
But Einstein also discovered that light traveling through space could be bent by gravity. Now scientists and engineers are speculating that space can be bent not just by light but by building an engine technology with powerful magnetic fields that warp the immediate surrounding area. A spaceship with such engines would literally ride within a magnetically created bubble. Inside it the laws of special relativity would still apply. For the passengers it would appear that they were traveling at sub-light speeds. But for those observing from outside the bubble it would appear that the spaceship was exceeding light speed.
In the past have objects in our Universe traveled faster than the speed of light? According to cosmologists the answer is yes. Shortly after the Big Bang, the moment of the Universe’s conception, it expanded at rates faster than light speed. This could occur because the Universe had no mass at the time.
At a conference in 2013, Dr. Harold “Sonny” White, who heads up the Johnson Space Center skunk works looking at warp drives, proposed that it is possible within this century to achieve warp drive technology. He described what it would be like for astronauts traveling on a warp spaceship to our nearest neighboring star, Alpha Centauri, 4.36 light-years away. For the astronauts the trip would feel like a two week jaunt. Of course, upon return those back here on Earth would have aged at least 8.72 years. In effect the astronauts would have traveled into their future.
Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with a longstanding science and technology. Len is a futurist, writer and researcher for technology companies making a difference.
This article originally appeared on his blog here: http://www.21stcentech.com/musings-warp-drives/