While they differ significantly, both Star Trek and Star Wars rely on “warp speed” technology to move characters around their respective fictional galaxies.
According to a recent report from NASA’s 100 Year Spaceship Program, warp speed could become a reality, and a NASA engineer and his collaborator has recently unveiled CGI plans for a ship that could travel at warp speed.
Dubbed the IXS Enterprise, the ship looks a lot like its namesake, the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.
“We wanted to have a decent image of a theory conforming Warp ship to motivate young people to pursue a STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) career,” ship designer Mark Rademaker told The Washington Post. “It does have some Sci-Fi features that might never transfer to a possible final design, unless we really want to.”
Using “warp drive” technology
Capable of interstellar travel over the course of weeks and months, the proposed technology would create a “warp bubble” around a ship by expanding space-time behind the ship and contracting space-time in front of it. While the ship wouldn’t move by traditional propulsion, the passengers inside would perceive movement.
“Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed,” NASA physicist Harold White told io9. “However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy.”
How much is “a lot of energy”? Well, White’s initial concept called for an amount of energy equal to the mass of the planet Jupiter.
“However,” White said, “based on the analysis I did the last 18 months, there may be hope.”
After performing some recalculations of his original work, White concluded his warp drive could be powered by for an amount of energy equal to the mass of NASA’s Voyager probe. These new calculations mean a warp drive is plausible. A proof-of-concept study is the next step to showing a warp drive is possible.
“Mathematically, the field equations predict that this is possible, but it remains to be seen if we could ever reduce this to practice,” White said.
Visit Mark Rademaker’s redbubble page to see more of the IXS Enterprise and purchase merchandise featuring the design.
All images were used with permission from Mark Rademaker’s Flickr.