Even though it may seem farfetched, but is NASA seriously testing a Star Trek style warp drive propulsion system that could someday propel a spacecraft faster than the speed of light?
By: Ringo Bones
From naming the first Space Shuttle prototype after the starship Enterprise after a letter writing campaign from Star Trek fans to the increase in astronaut applicants after Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon, it seems that NASA’s post Apollo projects have been largely shaped by the fans of the original Star Trek TV series. But did you also know that they are currently working on a Star Trek style warp drive that could someday propel a spacecraft faster than the speed of light that could make interstellar travel a practical reality?
Unlike Star Trek’s Zefram Cochrane who built his warp capable ship under post World War III shortages, NASA physicist Harold “Sonny” White and team had been for a number of years been working on a propulsion system based on the Star Trek warp drive based on the groundbreaking equations formulated by Prof. Miguel Alcubierre showing the feasibility of faster-than-light travel that doesn’t violate Einstein’s Special Relativity. Only this time, they are actually receiving federal government funding.
The White-Juday warp-field interferometer is a space warping experiment to detect a microscopic instance of a warping of spacetime with the intent of creating an Alcubierre warp bubble, if possible. A research team led by Harold “Sonny” White in collaboration with Dr. Richard Juday at the NASA Johnson Space Center and Dakota State University are conducting experiments but results so far have been inconclusive. An additional experiment with an EmDrive is showing interesting results.
The NASA research team led by Harold White and their university partners currently aim to experimentally evaluate several concepts, especially a redesigned energy-density topology as well as an implication of brane cosmology theory. If space actually were to be embedded in higher dimensions, the energy requirements could be decreased dramatically and a comparatively small energy density could already lead to measurable – i.e. using an interferometer – curvature of spacetime. The theoretical framework for the experiment dates back to work by Harold White from 2003 as well as work by White and Eric W. Davis from 2006 that was published in the American Institute of Physics, where they also consider how baryonic matter could, at least mathematically, adopt characteristics of dark energy. In the process, they described how a toroidal positive energy density may result in a spherical negative-pressure region, possibly eliminating the need for actual exotic matter.
The NASA research team has postulated that their findings could reduce the energy requirements for a spaceship moving at ten times faster than the speed of light from the mass-energy equivalent of the planet Jupiter to that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft or less. By harnessing the physics of cosmic inflation, future spaceships crafted to satisfy the laws of these mathematical equations may actually be able to get somewhere unthinkably fast – and without adverse effects. Also, physicist and Earth Tech CEO Harold E. Puthoff explained that contrary to widespread belief that even the highly blue-shifted light seen on board such a spaceship would not fry its crew, being bathed in strong ultraviolet light and X-rays. It would however be dangerous to anyone seeing it fly closely.