I’m guessing any fan of GFR dreams of living long enough to see our species actually spread out beyond our own solar system. If that’s going to happen, we really need some sort of game-changing technology that can overcome the ridiculous distances between the stars without requiring us to resort to generation ships and centuries-long voyages. Well, imagine our surprise — and childish, unrestrained glee — when the story broke a few years back that NASA was working on an actual, honest-to-gosh warp drive. Sadly, this was a “purely theoretical for the moment” kind of situation, which means we can’t book passage to the Uncharted Territories just yet. Well, that reality is even more frustrating right now, because the latest designs for NASA’s warp ship look like they were pulled directly from my eight-year-old brain after a particularly aggressive Star Trek marathon.
Just as with Gene Roddenberry’s beloved space franchise, the warp drive proposed by NASA physicist Dr. Harold White would make the vast interstellar distances more manageable not by finding a way to exceed that pesky speed of light, but rather by creating a “warp bubble” that would distort space-time both in front of and behind a vessel. Expand the empty space behind the ship rapidly and the ship would be “pushed” forward. White speculates that such a vessel equipped with such a warp drive could traverse the 4.3 light years between our home system and Alpha Centauri within two weeks. Now we’re talkin’.
Of course, when it comes to starship design there’s practicality and then there’s style. White recently collaborated with artist Mark Rademaker to come up with a ship design that fits the needs of the math/physics and also looks like something that’d be right at home alongside the Enterprise. (In fact, they even named it the Enterprise in the pictures.) This baby? She’s got style.
The twin rings would create the warp bubble that “looks like a hot dog” and which would enclose the ship. So you want to keep everything nice and compact within those rings, otherwise when they switched the drive on anything outside it would be cut off, and then, as White puts it, “Scotty would be in a lot of trouble.”
You can see the rest of Rademaker’s ship designs in this Flickr gallery, and you can watch Dr. White go into detail about how his theoretical warp drive works in the video below. (He specifically discusses Rademaker’s design around the 40-minute mark.) Of course, this is all a long, long way from reality at this point…but damn, it’s nice to envision that sucker cruising through the galaxy.