Will humankind ever achieve light speed with a spacecraft? Science fiction movies keep our hopes high, but the reality of things is that it may not be possible.
The most significant problem lies in the energy needed to sustain such a feat. The faster you travel, the more energy it takes to increase your speed. More importantly, as you approach the speed of light, even the slightest speed increases require vast amounts of energy that we don’t yet know how to produce.
Researchers are actively attempting to develop faster and more efficient propulsion systems that can push spacecraft to record speeds while sustaining themselves for long periods of time. Such propulsion systems would be ideal for visiting stellar neighbors like Proxima Centauri for scientific study.
Many proposed propulsion methods are experimental, and so it’ll be a while before space agencies choose to implement them. In the meantime, spacecraft will continue taking advantage of thrusters and gravitational slingshots.
Although these are nowhere near the speed of light, they remain some of the fastest means of space travel available today, and perhaps even for the foreseeable future.