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Interstellar Travel

articles & documents

A Trip as Far Away as Space-Time Will Allow: Scientists Contemplate Ideas, Impossibilities of Interstellar Transit (SCI FI UFO Symposium)

Guy Gugliotta, Washington Post, November 18, 2002

Earlier this month, George Washington University and the Sci-Fi Channel sponsored a symposium at the university where serious people took up these two topics. Scientists agreed that we won't be doing star trips anytime soon, but "soon" may not mean much in the context of the cosmos.  R

Anti-gravity propulsion comes ‘out of the closet’

Nick Cook, JDW Aerospace Consultant, London - Jane's Defense Weekly

Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, has admitted it is working on experimental anti-gravity projects that could overturn a century of conventional aerospace propulsion technology if the science underpinning them can be engineered into hardware. R

Emerging Possibilities for Space Propulsion Breakthroughs

Marc G. Millis, Space Propulsion Technology Division, NASA Lewis Research Center

The ideal interstellar propulsion system would be one that could get you to other stars as quickly and comfortably as envisioned in science fiction. Before this can become a reality, two scientific breakthroughs are needed: discovery of a means to exceed light speed, and discovery of a means to manipulate the coupling between mass and spacetime. This article explains why these breakthroughs are needed and introduces the emerging possibilities that may eventually lead to these breakthroughs.  R

Interstellar Travel - An Annotated Bibliography

Warp Drive, When? - Marc Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center

An annotated bibliography of resources on interstellar travel, including overviews, introductions to emerging physics, and detailed technical papers. R

Interstellar Travel - Ideas Based On What We Know

Warp Drive, When? - Marc Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center

A brief description of some ideas that have been suggested over the years for interstellar travel, ideas based on the sciences that do exist today.

Interstellar Travel - Ideas Based On What We'd Like to Achieve

Warp Drive, When? - Marc Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center

A brief description of some ideas for interstellar travel that have been suggested more recently which will require major breakthroughs.

Interstellar Travel - Some Emerging Possibilities

Warp Drive, When? - Marc Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center

Some more advanced concepts relating to interstellar travel based on emerging physics.

Looking to Lasers, Microwaves and Anti-Matter for Space Travel

Leonard David, Space.com, 26 November 2003

As the 21st century unfolds, radically different forms of air and space vehicles will replace the clunky machines of today, whisking passengers at ultra-high speed around the Earth and outward into space. Laboratories scattered around the world are delving into novel and exotic forms of propulsion. Breakthrough physics could well make possible ambitious human treks across interstellar distances.  R

Reaching for Interstellar Flight

Leonard David, Space.com

When Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise hit the television screen in 1966, the science fiction series had trouble finding its own space and time slot. Decades later, a similar visionary zeal to seek new worlds and new civilizations is a factual enterprise for a new generation of galactic explorers. They are taking on spacetime and hoping to boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before -- out to far-flung stars and the planets that circle them. R

SETI, the Velocity-of-Light Limitation, and the Alcubierre Warp Drive

H.E. Puthoff, Ph.D. - Physics Essays, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 156-158, 1996

Alcubierre's recent "warp drive" analysis within the context of general relativistic dynamics, indicates the naivete of the assumption of impossibility of faster-than-light-speed travel. We show here that Alcubierre's result is a particular case of a broad, general approach that might loosely be called "metric engineering," the details of which provide yet further support for the concept that reduced-time interstellar travel, either by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations at present or ourselves in the future, is not, as naive consideration might hold, fundamentally constrained by physical principles.  R

Should SETI Protocols Consider Interstellar Travel?

Dr. Peter Schenkel, SETI League

The question is far less academic than it may appear. It has been argued that because of energy requirements, interstellar travel is "Impossible." Also for other intelligences. But most space propulsion specialists disagree.  R

SpaceTime Hypersurfing

Michael Szpir, American Scientist, Vol. 82

In some future history, 1994 may be remembered as the year that the warp drive was first conceived to be a physical possibility. Long a cliche' of science- fiction writing, the warp drive has transported countless fictional characters through light-years of interstellar space in the time it takes for you or me to travel to the market. Unfortunately for real-world travelers, the warp drive has always been thought to be inconsistent with the laws of physics. But all this has changed.  R

The Alcubierre Warp Drive

John G. Cramer, Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine, 1996

An overview and exploration of Alcubierre's work and its implications. Two years ago Alcubierre published a remarkable paper which grew from his work in general relativity, the current "standard model" for space-time and gravitation. His paper describes a very unusual solution to Einstein's equations of general relativity, described in the title as a "warp drive", and in the abstract as "a modification of space time in a way that allows a space ship to travel at an arbitrarily large speed".  R

The big mystery: Interstellar travel

MSNBC, Oct. 22, 1998

Have you ever wondered when we’ll be able to travel to distant stars as easily as in science fiction? Believe it or not, scientists are seriously looking at concepts such as wormholes, space-time distortions and space drives.  R

The ETH and the Likelihood of Interstellar Travel

by Jean van Gemert

The (un)likelihood of extraterrestrial visitation is probably one of the most debated aspects of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, the answer being an essential component to the validity of the ETH. After all, the assumed unlikeliness of interstellar travel has become the cornerstone of those who resist the ETH as an explanation for UFOs. So, does extraterrestrial visitation necessarily require all sorts of "unlikely" science, or is it possible to accomplish interstellar travel using conventional wisdom? R

The Fermi Paradox and Interstellar Flight

Bob Seitz

What I'm first going to examine are some notions about what it will take to allow us to travel to the stars. Obviously, if we can travel to the stars, then others could come to see us. Then I'll take up the Fermi Paradox in a later installment. R

The Physics of Interstellar Travel


Many people wonder when we will be able to travel to distant solar systems as easily as envisioned in science fiction. This essay will explain the challenges of interstellar travel, the prospects and limitations of existing propulsion ideas, and the prospects emerging from science that may one day provide the breakthroughs needed to enable practical interstellar voyages. Analogies to familiar science fiction are used to simplify notions such as the 'warp drive'. It will show the step-by-step approach towards discovering the ultimate breakthroughs needed to revolutionize space travel and enable human journeys to other star systems - credible progress towards incredible possibilities. R

The Physics of Interstellar Travel

Michio Kaku, Theoretical Physicist, CUNY

What would it take to reach the stars? Explore the real physics behind interstellar travel.  R

The Politics of Interstellar Travel

Jay Johansen

Science fiction writers and readers seem to deeply resent relativity theory. Most science fiction stories that discuss interstellar travel take it for granted that some way will be found to travel faster than light. Without this, of course, travel between the stars is painfully slow. There must be a way to break the lightspeed limit, you can almost hear them wail, for without it, we may never reach the stars. But maybe we should be glad for relativity. For it offers a bright hope for the long-term future of human freedom. Let me explain.  R

The Speed-of-Light-Limit Argument

Bernard Haisch, Ph.D.

The Leading Theory-Based Rejectionist Argument (which we all know). The speed of light is a universal upper limit. Distances between stars range from 4.3 light years to Alpha Centauri to a hundred thousand light years across the Milky Way galaxy to millions of light years between galaxies. These facts are incompatible with tens of thousands of apparent visitations R

The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity (PDF format) PDF Document

Miguel Alcubierre, Classical and Quantum Gravity, 11 (1994), L73-L77

It is shown how, within the framework of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, it is possible to modify a spacetime in a way that allows a spaceship to travel with an arbitrarily large speed. By a purely local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it, motion faster than the speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region is possible. The resulting distortion is reminiscent of the `warp drive' of science fiction. However, just as happens with wormholes, exotic matter will be needed in order to generate a distortion of spacetime like the one discussed here.

Warp drive possible

BBC News, June 10, 1999

In Star Trek, the USS Enterprise is powered by what is called a "warp drive" and at the moment only Paramount Pictures know its secrets. But new, highly mathematical research may have brought us one step closer to being able to explore the Universe in a starship capable of travelling faster than the speed of light.  R

websites & organizations

Advanced Propulsion Concepts

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

This website has been compiled from version 1.0 of a CD assembled by JPL in 1989 as an overview of advanced space propulsion concepts.

Warp Drive, When?

Marc Millis, NASA Glenn Research Center

Have you ever wondered when we will be able to travel to distant stars as easily as in science fiction stories? NASA Glenn's Marc Millis, who has taken a break from Project Management for NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project to return to conducting research, offers this assessment of the prospects for achieving the propulsion breakthroughs that would enable such far-future visions of interstellar travel.