Would we one day be able to travel through space like the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek? We could. And as it turns out, scientists are already working on it now. Dr. Harold "Sonny" White,
from the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering
Directorate. Dr. White and his colleagues don't just believe a real life
warp drive is theoretically possible.
But how so? Current propulsion technologies make interstellar flight impossible. Furthermore, it would require a lot of fuel and mass to get to any nearby star. And the worse part is that it will take decades if not longer to get there.
Dr. White and other physicists have found loopholes in some mathematical equations that indicate that warping the space time fabric is indeed possible.
Working at NASA Eagleworks—Dr. White's team is trying to find proof of those loopholes and have initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble using an instrument called White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer.
Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space time-a "Chicago pile" moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a ~ four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development.
Warp bubbles would essentially allow a spaceship's engine to compress the space ahead and expand the space behind to move to one place without actually moving and have none of the adverse effects of other travel methods.
But where would all the energy to get us there come from? Dr. White has found a solution that changes the game completely.
The Eagleworks team has discovered that the energy requirements are much lower than previously thought. If they optimize the warp bubble thickness and "oscillate its intensity to reduce the stiffness of space time," they would be able to reduce the amount of fuel to manageable amount: instead of a Jupiter-sized ball of exotic matter, you will only need 500 kilograms to "send a 10-meter bubble (32.8 feet) at an effective velocity of 10c."