Star Trek has long offered a utopian vision of a future where technology has allowed humankind to move beyond the conflicts of its past.
When it first aired in September 1966, the sci-fi classic depicted a universe where people of all races, colours and creeds took to the stars to seek out new life and new civilizations and to boldly go where no man – or woman – had gone before.
But how close are we to realising the once ultra-futuristic technology featured in the Star Trek universe?
The ability to travel faster than the speed of light is perhaps the most important step to allow humanity to explore beyond our own solar system and out into the universe.
To do so scientists would need to break, or at least bend, the rules of time and space famously laid out by Albert Einstein.
Perhaps the closest to the Star Trek vision of warp speed is the Alcubierre drive, first proposed by Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994 that allowed faster-than-light travel without contradicting Einstein.
Researchers at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center took the proposals seriously enough to investigate.
The space agency recently said it wants to develop a ‘deeper understanding of the nature of space-time, gravitation, inertial frames, quantum vacuum, and other fundamental physical phenomena.’
This will enable missions ‘that are not feasible using current propulsion solutions’, such as ‘robotic interstellar missions’.
While holographic rooms were designed for recreational use by a starship’s crew, they also allowed the plot of Star Trek to move into exotic and unfamiliar locations.
Although the idea of virtual reality (VR) has been around since the golden age of science fiction, it took until the 1980s for it to be embraced in popular culture.
And it was the 1990s before the first crude attempts at mass market VR headsets were released.
But with more affordable and powerful headsets like the Occulus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR being released in recent years, VR could soon become an everyday reality for home users.
Another key attraction of the holodeck was the ability it afforded the crew to physically interact with the holographic environment and characters they encountered.
Developments in haptic feedback have enabled users to interact with digital environments and products.
In later series of Star Trek, starting with 80s incarnation The Next Generation, crew members were able to use replicators to create meals by rearranging subatomic particles and combining their molecular components, seemingly out of thin air.
While not yet as advanced, 3D Printers are already being utilised to create edible products.
One chain of sweet shops in the US hit the headlines after using the first 3D printer to produce candy, while a London restaurant recently opened where everything from the tables to the food is created by 3D printers.
And with Nasa exploring the potential for 3D printed food, it might not be long before astronauts on the International Space Station are also chowing down on meals created from cartridges of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
And printing at the molecular level may not be as far off as we might think, with BAE Systems announcing details of its Chemputer.
Originally envisaged for using chemical process to ‘grow’ military hardware, it doesn’t take much of an imaginative leap to apply this type of technology to food production.
Originally devised as a cheap visual effect to avoid the need for more expensive ship landing sequences, the sight of the Enterprise crew beaming down to an alien planet below is perhaps one of the most iconic spectacles of Star Trek.
While this type of transporter may be a long way off, developments in the realm of quantum mechanics may offer some hope of a future breakthrough.
Professor Michio Kaku has previously said the discoveries needed to transport humans instantly have already been made.
Speaking to the Daily Express, he said:’Quantum teleportation already exists [and] I think within a decade we will teleport the first molecule.’
Quantum teleportation depends on a phenomenon called quantum entanglement, which allows connections to be made between atoms, with their information being sent to others far away.
The entangled particles are connected in such a way that the action of one directly affects the others, even if they are separated over large distances.
Albert Einstein called this ‘spooky action at a distance.’
Previous studies have shown atoms teleporting across a room, and light being teleported across the Danube River in Austria.
And two separate studies released in September 2016 have shown quantum teleportation is feasible through optical fibres across cities.
Military forces around the world have long been interested in energy weapons, since at least the 1980s.
Although they don’t function in exactly the same way as the phasers of Star Trek, lasers have shown the most promise in this field and could result in the same kind of destructive force.
Tests have already shown that lasers can be used to successfully shoot down drones at a range of at least 22 miles.
The US military has announced it could have such systems mounted on army vehicles as early as 2017.
And the US air force hopes to test laser systems for use by supersonic fighters by 2019.
‘The idea is to provide a solution to a capability gap which is an inability to acquire, track, and destroy low, slow drones that proliferate all over the world’, Tim Reese, director of strategic planning at the US Army’s Ft. Sill, told Scout Warrior.