The text “Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel” was written by Mark Alpert and published as an article in the Scientific American.
The author starts off with the history of the fictional warp-drive engine, which is a really important piece of technology in the Star Trek Universe. For example, it enables the famous starship Enterprise to travel faster than light.
This technology however is currently investigated in the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The head of the advanced propulsion program there, Harold White, works on an experiment with only $50,000 funding for this project. If it is successful, it may provide clues for the development of a device, that could warp space time. With the help of this device, faster-than-light travel could be possible. This is important, because the only spacecraft, that left our solar systems until now, would need about 70,000 years to reach any nearby star. With a warp-drive the amount of time needed to get to another star system would shrink down to mere weeks.
Voyager I is the name of this probe that has left our system behind. It was originally send out by NASA to study Jupiter, Saturn and their moons.
Because many people share the enthusiasm for interstellar travel, organisations were created, that explore more realistic means of space travel, which come with their own unique challenges. One of them is Icarus Interstellar, which is looking into nuclear fusion propelled craft. Their problem is mainly that nuclear fusion is not yet fully developed, despite being researched since 50 years.
Interstellar travel itself comes with a myriad of problems. For example there is space dust, which doesn’t sound dangerous at all, but becomes quite lethal at high or even relativistic speeds. Spacecraft need protective plating to withstand those impacts. Additionally, deceleration is needed to arrive safely at a destination. Therefore, additional fuel is needed.
Regardless of the challenges, research into interstellar travel is still ongoing. The exploration of other star systems or even earth like planets is said to be essential to the survival of mankind. If humanity is spread out across multiple worlds, planetwide calamities, like asteroid impacts or a nuclear war, are less likely to wipe out all human beings.