The distance between Earth and the nearest star outside the solar system is so vast that it takes light traveling from Alpha Centauri 4½ years to get here. With today’s technology, a spaceship leaving Earth would take tens of thousands of years to make the same journey.
Although the theoretical and technological barriers to achieving the speed of light are considerable, a team of NASA scientists in Houston is working on achieving “warp drive.”
Albert Einstein insisted that some universal constants can never be overcome. One is the impossibility of making an engine or propulsion system capable of accelerating a ship’s mass to the speed of light. If humans are to travel to the stars, it will require violating Einstein’s law.
Scientists are looking for ways to manipulate space and time around a vessel by creating a “warp bubble.” It may be possible to expand space on one side of a ship, and contract it on the other, by using an exotic matter present throughout the universe that many suspect already violates physical laws.
Without major breakthroughs in humans’ understanding of the physics of time and space, they will never see another star besides the sun up close. Still, outlandish theories such as warp drive are part of what it means to be human.
Every great journey begins with a bold step into the unknown. Once science starts down that road, people often find that things weren’t as impossible as they once thought.