Could we reverse engineer a damaged alien spacecraft?
I say, yes we could, given time. Aaron Gullison defined three levels of difference. The greater the difference, the longer it would take.
My assumption: physical laws and materials are the same throughout the universe. Thus the aliens could use nothing that we could never gain access to.
Along with reverse engineering would come a vast increase in our scientific understanding of their underlying technologies. Something like this:
- Contact Year – 1. "It's impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. It's virtually impossible that we'll ever be visited by intelligent aliens." Committee of Venerable Nobel Scientists
- Contact Year. BOOM! Here it is. "What the hell is it? This is impossible; it has to be a fraud." Etc.
- CY +1. "Hmmm. That's interesting." Engineers studying the vessel.
- CY +2. "We've always ignored the solutions to these equations that came out as infinity. But look what happens if I try a different value in here." Crazy Betty the grad student, going behind the back of her professor, after studying the reports on the vessel's propulsion system.
- CY +3. "I'll be damned. So that's how they did it. We sure never expected that approach." Head of NASA Ames Alien Vessel Research Team, after applying the model developed by Dr. Betty.
- CY +4. "SCIENTISTS TAME WHITE HOLES!! Interstellar Travel is Imminent." The tabloids.
- CY +N. "Professor Betty, will you please step up here and break the bottle of champagne over the prow to launch Space Leap 1?"
Re-engineering will get you there a lot faster than inventing it all yourself, especially when all those who know insist it's impossible.
Scientists are already doing something quite similar. They are reverse engineering the sensory and nervous systems of humans and other animals. In a sense this is even harder than making sense of hypothetical alien technology might be because nervous systems are the product of a natural process of evolution, rather than of design by an engineer. Evolution has it's own distinct ways of doing things, that are quite different from what a human engineer might readily think of. All of biology is really a kind of reverse engineering of life. So, I think that if we ever did find an example of alien technology we could reverse engineer it, because we already have lots of experience with reverse engineering something that isn't the product of design by a human mind.
That would depend on how closely their technology mirrored our own.
A craft based on steel and powered by electricity would pose little challenge.
A craft of artificial composite with energy provided by nuclear batteries would take much longer to duplicate or understand.
A craft that actively defied efforts to understand it with no visible fuel source would require our technology to advance to that state to understand it.
Its already been done and many secret organisations have used their copied craft to reach for the solar system and beyond. Sources for this info are several, David Wilcock, Corey Goode, captain Kaye, among others.