An illustrator working with NASA scientists has unveiled a proposed design for a "faster-than-light" spacecraft looking like something out of "Star Trek" that might someday bring the possibility of interstellar travel.
In 2012, NASA scientist Harold White, at the space agency's Johnson Space Center, announced he was investigating the design of a faster-than-light spacecraft.
Now artist and illustrator Mark Rademaker has collaborated with White to generate what they say is a realistic design showing how such a spaceship, which would use some form of "warp drive" to exceed the speed of light, could actually look.
"Warp drive" has been a long-standing staple of science-fiction works such as "Star Trek" to allow speedy travel around the universe by bending surrounding space-time.
Rademaker, working with White, came up with the design they've named IXS Enterprise, featuring a sleek central ship surround be two giant rings that would generate a warp "bubble."
White and his NASA colleagues working on the faster-than-light investigation call themselves the Advanced Propulsion Team Lead.
Describing the new design, the team said it envisions "a spheroid object [that] would be placed between two regions of space-time," one in front of the ship and one behind.
It would then create the warp "bubble" to move space-time in the vicinity of the ship, expanding it behind the ship to push and contracting it in front of the ship to pull.
Although the ship would not be moving in relation to its local frame of reference -- any passenger aboard with not sense any acceleration -- it would move at faster than light speed by that bending of space-time, the team said.
That theory is what is incorporated into the new design, Rademaker said, at least as much as was possible given current knowledge.
"We wanted to have a decent image of a theory-conforming warp ship to motivate young people to pursue a STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) career," Rademaker said in an interview with the Washington Post. "It does have some sci-fi features that might never transfer to a possible final design, unless we really want to."
If faster-than-lights ships were ever possible, White has said, a trip to Alpha Centauri -- 4.3 light years from Earth and the closest star system -- could be accomplished in just two weeks.
Rademaker initially unveiled his graphic designs at a 2013 SpaceVision conference, then uploaded them to his Facebook and Flickr accounts.
His visualizations of a "warp ship" became an Internet sensation, with views quickly going from thousands to millions.