In a seismically isolated room within the Johnson Space Center, NASA scientists are performing an extraordinarily ambitious experiment aiming to use a strong electric field to bend the fabric of space and time. Faster-than-light interstellar travel.
Thanks to a NASA physicist, the notion of warp speed might just travel out of sci-fi and into the real world.
NASA's Harold White has been working since 2010 to develop a warp drive that will allow spacecraft to travel at speeds faster than light 186,000 miles per second.
White, who heads NASA's Advanced Propulsion Team, spoke about his conceptual starship at a conference last fall. But interest in his project reached a new level this week when he unveiled images of what the craft might look like.
Created by artist Mark Rademaker, who based them on White's designs, the images show a technologically detailed spacecraft that wouldn't look out of place in a "Star Trek" movie. Rademaker says creating them took more than 1,600 hours.
For now, warp speed is only possible in TV and movies, with both "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" referencing an idea that was completely speculative at the time. White has fittingly named the concept spacecraft IXS Enterprise, for the starship famously piloted by Captain James T. Kirk in the "Star Trek" TV series and movies.
At the SpaceVision 2013 Space Conference last November in Phoenix, White talked about his design, the concepts behind it and the progress that's been made in warp-drive development over the decades. He discussed the idea of a "space warp," a loophole in the theory of general relativity that would allow for massive distances to be traveled very quickly, reducing travel times from thousands of years to days.