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Move Over, Star Trek: NASA Is Developing A Fully-Functional Warp Drive

Star Trek's warp drives aren't going to be the domain of science fiction for much longer. NASA may be on the cusp of one of the biggest breakthroughs in space travel since it first put a man on the moon. Late yesterday, it unveiled the design for a prototype ship capable of moving faster than the speed of light.

Crafted by a joint effort between NASA engineer and physicist Harold White, and Star Trek graphic artist Mark Rademaker, images of the prototype design were revealed at a SpaceVision 2013 conference, and have just recently gone viral. The theoretical design - called the IXS Enterprise - was based off the concept known as the Alcubierre warp drive; a theory first proposed by Mexican Phsycist Miguel Alcubierre; the theory suggests that FTL travel could be achieved if a ship were to warp the fabric of spacetime both in front of and behind it. 

The vehicle itself consists of a ship nestled at the center of two enormous rings, which would be responsible for creating the warp bubble. According to White, the ship would move by making the empty space behding it rapidly expand, pushing it forward with a degree of speed impossible with current technology. Even though the ship wouldn't technically be moving or accelerating, the passengers within would perceive the motion as such. 

For his part, Rademaker is incredibly excited about the ship.

"Maths and physics are totally not my cup of tea, the math involved here is way, way over my head. Dr White was very good at explaining what I needed to know and what I would understand," Rademaker said to CNet. "Mike Okuda gave a lot of feedback at the start of the project and he designed the IXS Enterprise insignia. White gave pointers about ring thickness, outer curvature and how we could fill the inside of the rings, without wasting too much valuable space. When we had the basic shape pinned, I could freely add details and features, with communication about my progress each couple of days." 

"I could have walked away, but I wanted this to be really good, so I put in an extra three months of spare time, with the new images as the result," he added.

Now, I'm sure there are at least a few of you ready to check out at this point, on the grounds that this isn't actually a functional, working prototype - it's just a conceptual design. I mean, this is supposed to be a prototype, isn't it? What we have here is little better than science fiction...right?

Wrong. 

See, the science behind the ship actually checks out. White's done the math, and with the right resources, we could create a ring-ship that could take travelers to Alpha Centauri in a matter of weeks - even though the system is four-and-a-half light years away. Make no mistake - this technology will see the light of day, maybe even in our own lifetime. According to officials at NASA's Johnson Space Center, White and his team are on the verge of inventing a warp-drive inferometer capable of finding warp bubbles in the fabric of space and time. 

The only problem now is finding a way to generate enough energy to do that on a larger scale. That'll come in time, though. Never underestimate the power of progress, folks. 

In other words...move over, Star Trek. The real world's coming. 

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