3Buzz Aldrin's Martian Gravity Express
After Nixon started the 1970s fad of slashing NASA's budget whenever they asked for money, it became something of a government tradition. To try to deal with having craptastic funding, NASA veteran Buzz Aldrin came up with a clever idea to save money going to Mars: Don't use any fuel.
Instead of actually powering the ship, he suggested you use Earth's gravity like a slingshot, shooting it into mars' gravitation field, which then would sling it back at earth. It would theoretically continue with this gravitational slingshottery until the end of time, using almost no fuel, and allowing them to load it up with equipment and personnel in a detachable cargo ship to drop every time it got close to Mars.
Above: Cracked's childlike grasp on this complex concept.
Also, you would get two going in opposite directions, because the way the gravity system works out, the trip there is nice and speedy, but the trip back takes a while. This way one of the ships would spend the short trip going Mars to earth, and the other would be earth to mars. No problem!
So Why Don't We Have One?
The long end of the trip takes about 21 months. At about this point the guys at NASA stopped listening, because who the hell wants to wait two years to be able to send another shuttle?
This also means the departure times are non-negotiable. Still working out the kinks on your little Mars rover? Too bad, the bus is leaving! Better luck next time, assholes!
2Farming Man-Made Space Meat
Ever wanted to know what panda tastes like? How about orangutang? What if we told you that you could have meat from any animal on the planet you like. You could even find out what person tastes like (and don't pretend you haven't wondered)! All you would need is a small tissue sample.
A few years back, the fellows at NASA were working on improving their astronauts' dinners, since one of the major complaints they got from the crews was the food. Eating freeze-dried mystery meals apparently gets old after a few weeks, and they wanted steak dammit.
Because they couldn't bring a whole cow up with them without accidentally creating the plot for the next animated movie from Dreamworks, NASA thought of a different solution: Why don't they make their own steak?
It was as close as we got to the Star Trek style replicators. Basically they took a vat of nutrient-rich water, threw in some chemicals to induce cell division, and dropped a few small samples of fish muscle in. A few days later they had several small lumps of fish-meat. They then cooked it up in a pan of oil with a little bit of garlic, some lemon, and a just a touch of cracked pepper.
So Why Don't We Have It?
The result looked and even smelled like fish, but when they asked for a volunteer to taste it, they quickly realized no one wanted to eat a $200 lab-grown muscle tumor.
That's a problem, because NASA wants to go to Mars in the next few decades and the crew could spend up to two years in space. So either astronauts develop a taste for tumor or NASA's is going to have to find a Black Agnus with outstanding hand eye coordination.