As pointed out by Obousy, it was the U.S. space agency that researched 8 different approaches to FTL travel - producing 16 peer-reviewed papers - during a program called "Breakthrough Propulsion Physics" (BPP) from 1996 to 2002. It was this study that identified wormholes (a.k.a. "Einstein-Rosen bridges") and warp drives as two of the most "feasible" modes of superluminal travel.
Although exciting, there is a huge caveat that comes with any research that explores the limits of our understanding of physics.
"Warp drives are extremely speculative at this stage, and it would be irresponsible of me to suggest that a warp drive could ever be built," Obousy added.
"What does seem true, however, is that warp drives are allowed to exist within the known laws of physics, and can therefore be explored and investigated in a rigorous and scientific manner."
The warp drive is a familiar technology in the Star Trek universe, but we're talking about NASA building a hyperdrive - are they the same thing? After all, I don't recall the Millennium Falcon having a warp drive - it has a Isu-Sim SSP05 hyperdrive generator installed (in case you were wondering).
For simplicity's sake, we'll assume the Star Wars hyperdrive is similar to Obousy's warp drive (they do the same thing, i.e., go faster than the speed of light).
"The Star Wars movies go into very little technical detail regarding the functionality of their hyperdrives; however, it's clear that the hyperdrive operates at FTL speeds, since the spacecraft are able to jump from one star system to another in a very short amount of time," said Obousy.
"Since the travel time is fast, but not instantaneous (as it would be in the case of a wormhole), I think that it's safe to hypothesize that the hyperdrive is, in fact, a warp drive - which involves a local manipulation of spacetime to create the superluminal propulsion."
A Cottage Industry
As previously discussed on Discovery News, Obousy's Warpship assumes the Universe is composed of many dimensions and some of these dimensions can be manipulated using "dark energy" - an energy that is theorized to pervade all space, explaining the observed accelerated expansion of the Cosmos.
Unfortunately, there is little continued research into this fascinating area of work, so the Star Wars fans call for further investigation isn't that misplaced after all.
"Both warp drive and wormhole research are "cottage industries" - that is, for the most part, physicists have to study these in their spare time, outside of their regular academic and research duties," Obousy concludes. "Currently, there are no funded projects in either industry or academia that support this research."
"However, as was demonstrated by the BPP, one needs only an incredibly modest budget to create a fruitful and inspiring research program."
Fascinated by the science behind the warp drive, dark energy and manipulating space-time? Watch "Interstellar Journey," a series of ten short (non-technical) videos, hosted by Richard Obousy.