Faster-than-light propulsion is an important part many science-fiction works, with ‘Star Trek’ being one most well-known.
The NASA is working on an experiment to determine the feasibility of real-world Warp-Drives. It is conducted by Harold “Sonny” White, the head of the Johnson Space Center’s advanced propulsion programme. Since it is not possible for an object to travel faster than light White tries to side-step the laws of physics by distorting the space-time and thereby getting from A to B faster than light, without actually accelerating the spacecraft beyond lightspeed.
The project is criticised by researchers, who say that this is obviously impossible to achieve. It also receives only a small amount of funding, but the fact that it gets funding at all gives the project some merit.
But White is not alone. Fueled by dreams and recent discoveries of probably-habitable planets lots of scientists and engineers try to make interstellar travel a reality. Those non-government organisations, namely “the 100 Year Starship project”, the “Tau Zero Foundation” and “Icarus Interstellar” are trying practical approaches to tackling this problem. “Icarus Interstellar” for example wants to use fusion generators to power space ships which would increase the speed of spaceships by the factor of thousand compared to today’s propulsion systems. But to this day fusion technology is waiting for a breakthrough and there are no working prototypes of a fusion generator.
These higher speeds are needed because currently available propulsion systems would need more than 70,000 years to reach the next star with habitable planets. There are other problems as well. The interstellar space is not really empty and destructive high-speed collisions with microscopic objects call for heavy shielding. This and the need for active deceleration of the spacecraft at the target location increases the amount of fuel that needs to be carried along.
While these Problems seem so overwhelming that they might explain why we never met extraterrestrial life, non-government organisations increase their efforts to colonise space. Advocates of these organisations point out that it might be critical to the survival of our species since we can currently go extinct if a planetary catastrophe happens and since the terraforming of a whole planet like Mars is even