Researchers at NASA’s Texas-based Johnson Space Center are trying to prove that it is possible to travel faster than the speed of light, and hope to one day build an engine that resembles the fictional Starship Enterprise.
NASA physicist and engineer Dr. Harold G. White, 43, believes it is possible to bend the rules of time and space that Albert Einstein constructed when he postulated that it is impossible to exceed the speed of light.
White’s research is based on the theories of Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who in 1994 theorized that exceeding Einstein’s galactic speed limit was possible if scientists discovered a way to harness the expansion and contraction of space. And Harold and his team are trying to do just that.
By creating a “warp bubble” that expands space on one side of a spaceship and contracts it on the other, “the spaceship will be pushed away from the Earth and pulled towards a distant star by space-time itself,” Dr. Alcubierre wrote in his hypothesis.
Dr. White is trying to warp the trajectory of a photon to see if he can propel its travel at faster-than-light speeds. His laboratory floats above a system of underground pneumatic piers and was constructed in a way that it would be free from seismic disturbances, since his team’s measuring devices can pick up the smallest vibrations – even those created from people who are walking nearby.
Dr. White told the New York Times that since nature can travel at warp speeds, there is a chance that humans can figure out how to do it too.
“Space has been expanding since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago,” Dr. White told the Times. “And we know that when you look at some of the cosmology models, there were early periods of the universe where there was explosive inflation, where two points would’ve went receding away from each other at very rapid speeds.”
Although Dr. White believes the potential construction of a spaceship like the USS Enterprise lies in the distant future, such a project could open doors for far-reaching space travel. Developing a warp drive would allow NASA to drastically reduce travel times to other star systems from tens of thousands of years to weeks or months. With such technology, astronauts could take quick trips to explore other solar systems.