Warp speed may seem like a fanciful slice of science-fiction storytelling, but NASA physicist Harold White is seeking to develop faster-than-light travel and recently revealed concept art for his spacecraft, the IXS Enterprise.
White leads NASA's Advanced Propulsion Team and began working in 2010 on making warp drive a reality. His research attempts to shorten the distance between two points, allowing a craft to exceed the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second.
NASA has no proof that a warp drive is possible; although, the concept doesn't violate the laws of physics. If such a technology is successfully developed, space travel could enjoy dizzying possibilities as distances once thought impossible to reach are opened to exploration.
"We're starting to talk about what the next chapter for human space exploration is going to be," White said at the SpaceVision 2013 Space Conference last November in Phoenix.
White's research is inspired by the work of physicist Miguel Alcubierre, and it theorizes a warp model that could bend space both in front of and behind a spacecraft, pushing and pulling it forward at the same time.
"There's no speed limit on the expansion and contraction of space," White explained. "You can actually find a way to get around what I like to call the 11th commandment: Thou shall not exceed the speed of light."
To create a possible model for a warp-drive enabled spacecraft, artist Mark Rademaker worked more than 1,600 hours on a rendering of White's IXS Enterprise, named in honor of Capt. James T. Kirk's USS Enterprise.
The design, pictured below, takes inspiration from Matthew "Matt" Jefferies' USS Enterprise design work on "Star Trek: The Original Series." Rademaker and veteran Star Trek graphic designer Michael Okuda helped White update the math to produce a viable ship.