First Contact Day: Warp drive in our future?


April 5, 2063, marked the mythical “First Contact Day” in Star Trek lore. The Vulcans spotted Zefram Cochrane’s warp test signature and visited Earth, establishing a long and fruitful alliance.

We missed First Contact Day because, well, I spent 10 hours traveling by car. In hindsight, what does First Contact Day mean in reality? We sit a mere 45 years — less than half-a-century — from this mythical moment. Can or will we achieve some form of technology that will allow us to travel in and out of our solar system with greater speed?

We know much can happen in less than 50 years. Consider the Wright Brothers completed their initial flight in 1903. Forty years later, the Germans introduced jet aircraft into World War II while also improving rocket technology.

Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwable, the world’s first jet fighter. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But is faster-than-light travel (FTL) possible?

Meet Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre. His 1994 theory contemplates FTL speed inside the construct of Einstein’s theory of relativity. In Alcubierre’s mind, a ship would contain a drive creating a term known to all Star Trek fans — a warp bubble. The bubble would effectively fold space at the front end of the bubble and widen it at the back. Basically the warp bubble clears away regular space so the object can move through it.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

According to 2012 article from, the drive would require energy equal to the entire output of the planet Jupiter — just to set a minimum standard.

First Contact Day Conspiracy?

A NASA document revealing the “EM Drive” was posted on a fan forum in 2016 and quickly removed. Was this a hoax or a leak?

The EM Drive spins microwaves inside a container creating a propeller-like effect. Such a motor could passage a ship from Earth to Mars in weeks and the Moon in hours. Turn out, the leak was legit.

The Chinese claim to have solved the EM Drive’s physics issues and are ready to test such an engine in space. NASA claims likewise.

Talk About Jet Lag!

Suppose you could travel FTL and zip around among the stars. A thing call “time dilation” would confuse everything. FTL travelers experience a slowing in time and therefore age at a slower rate. A person traveling at FTL to a star four light years away, will age far less than, say, his girlfriend waiting back home on Earth.

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Sounds wacky, but let’s the good-ole Carl Sagan explain it for us:

In the end, Christopher Columbus could never imagine steam ships or the Airbus A-380. Heck, Columbus was out to prove the world wasn’t flat!

For us, it’s hard to imagine interplanetary travel will happen at the snap of a finger. Perhaps it will. Perhaps other technology such as inter-dimensional transit or wormholes will change the rules of physics.

Until then, First Contact Day with Vulcans is likely to only happen at conventions.