Q, If an alien spacecraft landed on Earth (and its crew died later for some reason), how quickly could we learn from its spaceship how to build our own spaceship that could match its travelling ability?…If on this very day we came into possession of an alien spacecraft capable of interstellar travel, it is highly probable that we would not be able to directly reverse-engineer this highly-advanced level of technology anytime soon. Our greatest advancements in fossil fuel and rocket-based propulsion systems simply don’t stand a chance in reaching a planet deemed suitable for sustaining intelligent life.Photo Credit: Bogus tech company and 3D Max spaceship that I made up. Flying spaceship gleaned from the web.Even if we utilized the most advanced technology we have available to us today and ushered off our spiffy-new, cutting edge spacecraft to travel to Alpha Centauri, the odds are overwhelming that before our craft ever reached its destination we would have developed a newer, far more technologically-advanced spacecraft that would literally“pass up” our previous spacecraft while it was still making its journey.Our current ability in traveling to a distant solar system is tantamount to an australopithecus fashioning a ship capable of reaching the moon. But this does not mean that being in control of a spacecraft possessing this extremely advance technology wouldn’t speed up the design process.Let’s consider a few scenarios…(1) Ancient Egypt vs. NASA’s Space Shuttle:If you were to park NASA’s #1 pride and joy, the Space Shuttle, on the hot desert sands of Ancient Egypt, there is no question that the people living during this time would have absolutely no clue as to what the hell it was, let alone how to recreate it. The technological advancements during this simple period of world history were incredibly basic and remained this way for millenniums. The space shuttle would be seen as something totally beyond ordinary human life and probably considered a chariot of the gods.It is far more likely that the Ancient Egyptians would end up worshiping it rather than fostering any attempts at reverse-engineering. However, as world history unfolds and the many new technological advancements appear over time, the mere “existence” of NASA’s space shuttle would still speed up the overall technological advancement of mankind.Having a tangible, fully functional spacecraft from the future dictates that the development of our space shuttle would probably have happened during a much earlier period in world history.(2) Wright Brothers vs. F-117 Stealth Fighter Jet:If back in 1903 you were to present the Wright brothers with a fully armed, prepped and fueled Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter jet from 1981, it is obvious that our renowned airplane-inventing duo would never be able to reproduce this technology within their lifetime. Poor ol’ Orville and Wilbur would probably have no idea how the guidance and propulsion systems work… or even how to start the damned thing up!However, this does not mean that our patent-procuring pair of propeller plane proponents couldn’t glean a great deal of aerodynamic knowledge from whatever they were able to decipher. The F-117’s unorthodox vector-based shape, jet propulsion system, airflow mechanics and its radar-defying exterior coating would present a complete mystery to our beloved brothers, but they would still know that something crazy-shaped like this heavy metal “beast” can actually fly.For the Wright Brothers to be in possession of such a hi-tech, classified aircraft would undoubtedly cause them to rethink the mechanics of flight in a far more expansive and creatively-abstract way. Although they would not be able to fly it or operate the on-board computer systems, they could design far more basic shaped wooden prototypes and move in an all-new design direction from there.No doubt the U.S. government and military would also converge on the Wright brother’s amazing new discovery and immediately begin the process of reverse engineering the craft. What is certain is that it would not take a full 78 years later to witness the birth of a F-117 stealth fighter jet.(3) Modern Society vs. Alien Spacecraft:Photo Credit: Bogus tech company and 3D Max spaceship that I made up.Should we actually happen upon an alien spacecraft during today’s times, there would be a major difference in our retro-engineering capabilities versus our Wright brothers and Ancient Egypt scenarios. Although we might not be able to directly reproduce the technology (or even understand how it works) we would still be able to analyze the molecular structure of the outer shell, study the structure’s overall design and decipher how an alien pilot might interact with the vessel.As opposed to ancient civilizations, we are scientifically and analytically far more advanced and know what we are dealing with. We would not worship it, enshrine it or destroy it out of fear. Instead, we wold start dissecting whatever elements of the craft that we can figure out and start piecing together the many missing pieces of this strange intergalactic puzzle until we find what we are looking for.Bonus Knowledge: “Derivative retro-engineered technology”Photo Credit: Bogus global protection protoatomic force field system that I made up.Before we ever fully discover the true functional capabilities of our alien craft, we would probably be able to discover “other things” from it that we could utilize in other areas of human existence. If we discovered that the ship utilized a relatively easy method for creating a protective force field (and we were just too stupid to realize how easy this was) then we could quickly implement this advancement on a global scale.Summary:It is not possible to state how long it would take to accurately reproduce the technology used in our alien spacecraft. What we do excel in is our profound capabilities in diagnostic research and scientific study. We’ve been to the celestial dance, my friend! We’ve studied the smallest of the small with electron microscopes and visually scanned the vastness of our universe with orbiting telescopes. All that’s required at this point is filling in the missing data along the way.When we will get there, nobody knows. However, there is no doubt that having a highly-advanced spacecraft of this nature in our possession would exponentially cut down on the time it would normally take to achieve this level of advanced technology.Photo Credit: Alleged spacecraft found at Roswell, New Mexico - June 25, 1947.…Besides, everyone knows that we already have one!