The Scientific American blog-article “Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel” written by Marc Alpert in April 2014 treats the (im)possibilities of interstellar travelling.
After giving a Star Trek anecdote the author writes about a NASA research programme that examines “distortions in spacetime”. Such distortions could be used for a spacecraft to travel faster than light if it could be enclosed in “warped spacetime”: The warp-drive would be invented.
However, critics state that it is basically infeasible at this point in time. What the author finds remarkable is that the NASA nevertheless assigns a small amount of money towards this dreamy project. Despite the critics there are many scientists and dreamers who try to launch unmanned interstellar operations until 2100, esp. after possibly inhabitable planets have been discovered recently. For this end, organizations have been set up, which hold regular meetings and conferences.
The author states that the problem to reach these planets would be time: NASA already has an unmanned spacecraft in interstellar space; however, it is much too slow. To reach any of the possibly inhabitable planets it would take 70.000 years. Thus, further developments in impulsion technology are needed.
Apart from the NASA warp-drive project there is the possibility examined by the organization Icarus Interstellar, which try to develop fusion power propulsion. Seemingly more feasible than the warp approach, nuclear fusion still is not ready for use in space.
Problematic with the high speed would be dust, which becomes dangerous to the spacecraft surface at such a high speed. Second point is the halting of a faster-than-light spacecraft: In order to stop and- if need be- to turn around, it would need a heavier construction. The author thus concludes that the encountered problems may be “endless” and that those may also be met by extra-terrestrials.
Eventually, it is explained why mankind then actually pursues the dream of interstellar travelling. It is about the survival of mankind. There are some extinguishing events that can only be escaped by space travel. Thus, the author ends with the Star Trek quote that we would have “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”