Einstein’s Theory of Relativity forbids ordinary matter from ever reaching the speed of light, as it would require infinite energy. You might have heard of ‘warp drive’ in the science fiction series Star Trek. Warp drive is a hypothetical spacecraft propulsion system that can travel faster than light.
A warp drive spaceship could travel faster than light without actually violating theory of relativity. As they say, today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact, warp drive is not just a part of science fiction anymore!
Dr. Harold White, a NASA scientist, is currently running the White-Juday warp-field interferometer experiment to check whether such kind of travel is possible. He has even designed a conceptual spacecraft named IXS Enterprise that would use warp drive for interstellar travel.
If successful, IXS Enterprise could reach the nearest star Proxima Centauri (4.2 light years away) in just two weeks! You can check the conceptual artwork of IXS Enterprise here.
The warp drive system creates a warp field around itself. This can be done with the help of two giant rings that surround the spaceship. These rings generate a contraction of space ahead and expansion of space behind the spaceship effectively making it travel ‘faster than light’.
In this manner, the spaceship could travel locally at very low velocities and thus avoid violating any laws. The ship isn’t really traveling at a speed, instead it is pulling its destination towards itself while pushing its starting point back.
Warp drive technology still has some drawbacks. Calculations show that such a system, if ever made, would require a huge amount of negative energy for its operation. Negative mass/energy is still a hypothetical idea. Nobody knows if such form of energy could ever exist in the universe.