When NASA showed off photo renderings of what a warp drive spaceship would look like last year – called the Enterprise, natch – my first thought was interesting and cool, but so what?
Those idle musings just took a giant leap forward though as the National Aeronautical and Space Administration boffins have gone and invented what could be a warp drive, but which at the least looks set to revolutionise space travel.
The Electromagnetic Drive operates without rocket fuel, instead converting solar-powered electricity into microwaves which then generate thrust.
The EM Drive will remove the need for rockets to use, well, rockets, and propellant which brings massive cost and weight reductions. It also allows for much faster space travel than previously thought possible.
Going to Mars could now take 70 days instead of between 150 and 300, while a trip to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, is now down to between 90 and 130 years instead of thousands of years.
And warp drive? The NASA scientists fired lasers into the EM drive and measured them travelling at faster than the speed of light.
One possible reason for this is the Drive produced a warp bubble, just like the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.
If the science holds up – and lives up to everyone’s expectations – then this is a breakthrough of enormous proportions.
Quite apart from interstellar space exploration, it would make space travel cheaper and easier as well as potentially being used to power engines here on earth.
Of course that is a big if.
Although the EM Drive results have been checked and tested in a vacuum, there is a lot of testing to go as they seem to break the existing laws of physics surrounding propellant and momentum.
There is still an enormous way to go before we can say for definite that we are about to make the jump to light speed.
But the thought we are close is incredibly exciting – let’s punch it!