Star Trek and the space program seem to be tied hand in hand. This seminal series influenced the engineers and designers that help propel NASA and other agencies through the 70's and 80's. Star Trek isn't just a show for many but a clear vision of what the future could be like. It is a vision of hope and adventure. A vision that has helped fuel the dreams of both astronauts and scientists as they blasted in to the stars.
A Grounded Space Ship
Many don't remember that there was a shuttle built before the initial flight of the Columbia. Dubbed the Enterprise, this shuttle never actually made it in to space. The Enterprise was a test for the shuttle program, developed by NASA in conjunction with the US Air Force. This powerless bird had no engines and couldn't take off on its own. However, it could be launched in to the atmosphere while piggybacking another jet and had full landing capabilities. The craft was originally to be named the Constitution but that never happened. A group of avid Star Trek fans petitioned the government to change the name to name of the Iconic fictional ship. The Constitution was dubbed The Enterprise and went in to service in 1976.
Warp Factor Six
NASA's love of all things Trek didn't end with the Enterprise. The agency is currently working on a technology that could lead to a working and real life warp drive. The idea is to create 'warp bubbles' that wrap around space craft, folding space so that a vehicle could go far distances in record time. Long thought the domain of Science Fiction shows like Star Trek, Dr. White of NASA's Johnson Space center thinks they can become a reality. He has written a paper that proves the concept in theory.
This paper has lead researchers to start conducting experiments in warp technology. These experiments have lead many more scientists to conclude that Dr. White is correct. In a lab setting, there have been manifestations of warp technology. There is no way to strap a space ship to this tech right now, but the results are certainly promising. The idea that someday a Captain could tell a helmsman to go to Warp Factor Six proves that maybe Star Trek isn't so far fetched after all. The researchers at NASA think that a peaceful world could someday be coupled with this new tech.