Excerpt from the “History of Stellar Exploration” by Anatoly Glushko.
FTL Travel, as Einstein predicted, has never truly been achieved. The developments in propulsion have meant that standard spacecraft are able to reach speeds approaching that of light itself. Light speed however has remained a barrier and that has meant that travel between all but the closest star systems was still impossible. The journey to the nearest inhabitable planet was still beyond being practical at around six hundred light years. However travel at above .75 LS meant that exploration of our solar system became much more achievable and realistic. Before long we were mining on Mars, collecting gasses from Venus and so on.
The real breakthrough in space travel came with the discovery of the true nature of dark matter, hinted at as early as the 21st century dark matter was known to make up the vast majority of space itself, yet we did not understand what it was and were perplexed by the apparent lack of something which seemingly composed the vast majority of what we understood as “space”.
A man by the name of Yuri Rutherford discovered that dark matter did not adhere to our perceived laws of physics, it appeared that dark matter existed as strings which could touch on different parts of space effectively joining them together, like attaching a string from one point on the inside of a balloon to another, but in all cases the length of the string in question was zero, this meant that dark matter could join two different parts of the universe rendering the space in between them immaterial. This in itself explained how the apparently significant lack of dark matter could make up the vast majority of space itself. It would still be many years before we were able to produce anything that could make use of Rutherford’s theory, any attempt to make contact with dark mater was effectively deflected as though it were light, it was famously described as something that you could “reach for but never touch”.
It was early in the 30th century that scientists Milton Johnson and Michael Cox proposed a mechanism to manipulate dark matter and were able to demonstrate that it could be moved and shaped. This rapidly led to the development of the Dark Matter Tunnelling (DMT) engine. This worked by shaping the dark matter around the engine allowing it to enter the space inside a bubble of dark matter and then to emerge from another side. In theory such a bubble of dark matter could be touching on ay number of parts of the universe simultaneously, the possibilities were incredible, the theory meant that near instantaneous travel between anywhere in the universe was conceptually possible. There were however limitations; in order to be able to shape the bubble so that you knew where you would emerge it was vital to have an understanding of where that was, otherwise despite the vastness of space the chance of emerging into a planet, star, black hole or other body was significant and so the first trips using DMT were into what was referred to as known space. More significantly in order to have any hope of returning to where you started it was vital to understand the relationship between the two points, their relative positions in space. By the 30th century however the amount of known space was vast and detailed star maps were quickly produced allowing the first successful manned DMT or “wormhole” journeys to be made. In the year 3212 a manned flight to our nearest inhabitable planet Kepplar 22b was made and the explorers Russell, Judd and Sharapovik made contact with the first extraterrestrial life, the huge aquatic Kepplar whales that swim in the planets oceans thriving on microbiological plant material. Humankind was finally not alone. But even since that first contact mankind has still not discovered anything more intelligent than a dolphin on over seventy habitable M Class planets.
Journeys using “wormhole” , “bubble” or the more correctly named DMT drives, are still not instantaneous. To ensure precision over the vast distances involved the further the distance to be travelled the larger the bubble created and therefore the further the distance to be travelled from edge to edge inside the bubble. As a rule of thumb, using a standard commercial DMT engine on a craft capable of sub light speeds of around .75LS, it will take approximately 10 days in order to travel 500 light years, that is an equivalent speed of 2.1 light years per hour (approximately 0.035 light years per minute). Company military vessels are believed to be able to achieve sub light speeds of .95LS and achieve precision within the bubble of almost double that of commercial craft, meaning that they can halve the distance to be travelled within the bubble and then cross that distance .2 times faster – therefore the same 500 light year journey could take as little as 4 days.