8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science Fiction

#4. A Sunflower-Telescope Spaceship Will Find Planets in Outer Space

PlanetQuest is NASA's esoteric branch of planet-hunters. Except, because they don't have the Millennium Falcon and a personal Wookiee to take them to distant corners of the universe, they had to get creative. Enter PlanetQuest's most badass innovation -- the starshade.

The starshade is a combination of a spaceship, a sunflower-telescope, and one scientist laughing his ass off that someone actually approved his proposal of a flower spaceship. Not that any of this is a joke -- one of the biggest hurdles to finding new exoplanets is seeing through the light of the stars that illuminate them. The starshade places itself between the telescope and the star, then through a process known as "science space magic," it blocks the starlight before it reaches the telescope's mirrors, allowing us to see exoplanets before the starlight blocks them out. The shape of the petals further makes it easier for the telescope to take pictures of distant planets. Truly, this is what the hippies had in mind when they talked about the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

#3. The Next Rover Moves With Wheels on Limbs

Although the spotlight's been focused on the mainstream Curiosity and Opportunity Mars rovers, NASA has also been busy constructing something for when we actually need to get shit done on Mars other than picture taking and rock sampling. Meet one of the next things we'll be sending to the Red Planet, the Athlete rover.

Which will presumably pick on nerdier, weaker rovers.

The Athlete rover is unique in that its limbs have wheels on the end of them, giving it the capability to choose to either walk or drive, allowing it the flexibility to climb up ridges or drive with huge payloads. When not using the wheels, the limbs can also pick up various tools, like drills, shovels, and grippers. Here's our question: Did NASA accidentally bring to life Return to Oz's most terrifying villains, Wheelers?

Walt Disney
Those pillars are made of solid cocaine.

#2. NASA's Martian Delivery UFO

Since Mars missions are becoming more of a reality with every passing year, NASA has been trying to figure out how we're going to end up doing all the smaller things. For example, delivering supplies up to Mars won't be as simple as driving over to your local FedEx and paying extra shipping fees. Long-term missions are going to need the space version of delivery trucks dropping off packages every few months or years, which is where NASA's new Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator comes in.

It also doubles as Galactus' hemorrhoid pillow.

The LDSD looks like little more than a fat Frisbee with a rocket attached to its bottom, which, when you think about it, is all you really need when you're throwing things into space. Designed specifically to act as the Martian version of Amazon (one-day shipping not guaranteed) the LDSD will be essential to future Mars missions for delivering toilet paper to our first Martian pioneers. Among other things, probably.

The good news is if this throw pillow of a spaceship doesn't work out, we can use it as an inflatable lake trampoline when summer comes.

Or eat all the delicious popcorn inside.

#1. NASA Is Planning to Build a Warp-Speed Spaceship

NASA physicist Harold White has spent the last four years figuring out the development of a real warp drive that will send spaceships at speeds faster than light. While nothing is 100 percent conclusive from his experiments, White and his team have slightly gotten ahead of themselves and have had the designs made for the future warp drive, if ever they figure out how to do it. The entire thing has been based off Star Trek, because why reinvent the wheel?

Mark Rademaker
"Look, we really just want to get out there and bone space chicks, Kirk-style."

The concept has been named the IXS Enterprise, for reasons unknown. Whether or not this will ever become a reality, it will be nice to know a science-fiction franchise will get 100 percent of the blame for its inevitable failure.

XJ dedicates this article to the person he was talking with while writing it. Poor Eponine.

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