5 Real Horror Movies That Actually Happened Thanks To NASA
Understatement time: Conquering space is hard. You can't just plop your ass down in a spaceship and aim the pointy end at the moon. There are all sorts of variables you need to cover, oddball scenarios that you need to prepare for. As the Earth's premier purveyor of extraplanetary antics, NASA is well aware of this. As such, its research history includes projects that are far from the ordinary rocket engine tests and spacesuit building, and veer right into Twilight Zone territory.
NASA Flew Thousands Of Jellyfish Into Space, And Now They Hate Earth
At the time of this writing, there are three people in space. But what if I told you that there's another life form that's been hanging in Earth's orbit, and at their most mighty, they've outnumbered our space cadets freaking 20,000 to one?
That mighty creature is the jellyfish. We brought those guys up there -- because let's face it, don't the fuckers just look like they belong in a space survival game, hovering about the ceiling waiting to drop down and suck your brains through your ears?
Assholes. All of them.
NASA's been flying the little dickheads up since 1991, when the space shuttle Columbia launched a payload of 2,478 jellyfish polyps in containers filled with artificial seawater and assorted chemicals into orbit. They grew and bred, and by the time the mission ended, a cool 60,000 space jellyfish were orbiting Earth and absolutely not mutating into a vengeful hive-mind out to destroy everything that you (you, specifically) hold dear.
The driving force behind this mass meducide wasn't the director of NASA getting vengeance over the jellyfish which stung him on a vacation to Greece, forcing several of his subordinates to piss on his leg and leading to the discovery of a very particular and embarrassing fetish. Jellyfish are actually fairly similar to humans in how they recognize and react to gravity, and researchers wanted to find out how being born in space affects this sense by breeding a shit-ton of them in a microgravity environment. The answer was that it fucked them over big time. While space-jellies looked similar to their Earth counterparts, their motor abilities developed very differently, to the point where they weren't able to survive on Earth at all. When the space-grown jellies were brought back to Earth, the sudden introduction of gravity basically gave them 24/7 vertigo.
So now they have a reason to hate us and our planet.
On one hand, this is a noble and important experiment that has given us tons of information about how our potential future space babies will adapt to terrestrial life (awfully, most likely). On the other hand, what the fuck, NASA? I'm no science alarmist, but I know my disaster movies. And 60,000 alien-looking space ectoplasm blobs that have adapted to life in a weightless environment so well that they now hate life on Earth has never spelled good news for anyone.
They Took Spiders Into Space For A Lighthearted Experiment, And They Adapted Disturbingly Well
If I were Science King, my second order of business would be to punch any subordinate who begins his grant pitch with "Let's take some spiders and ..." squarely in the groin and throw them in the scorpion pit. It wouldn't be a spider pit, because my first order of business would be to nuke all spiders. (Yes, I realize spiders are important to the ecosystem. I wouldn't be a very good Science King.)
In 2008, NASA figured that they'd get children interested in space by introducing spiders, which is sound logic in the sense that a cool car captures far more attention when you stuff it full of murderous clowns. So they sent a couple of orb-weaving spiders -- the same species as Charlotte from Charlotte's Web -- to the International Space Station and let them do their thing. At first, the spiders were clueless in their new weightless environment, and weaved their webs like drunk frat boys in a confetti factory:
Ha! Stupid spiders.
And if that would've been the end of it, no one would have batted an eyelid. But after a couple of days' hiatus, the spiders gave it another go. They tore down the original web, set to work again, and somehow leveled the fuck up:
D-did I say "stupid"? I meant "Sir."
Yep, in a matter of days, two spiders figured out a completely alien environment and adjusted accordingly, weaving perfect webs in the weightless abyss of space. The story doesn't tell whether they escaped immediately afterwards by weaving their own fully functional spaceship and flying it to another planet to further advance their newfound space skills, but let's just say it wouldn't surprise me if David Bowie turned out to be a prophet.
NASA Hires People To Stay In Bed for 70 Days (To Study Terrifying Things)
What would you give for such a lazy schedule that you didn't have to get up from bed for 70 days? What about if someone would actually pay you to laze around in the bed for that time? And what if that hypothetical money maniac would pay you $18,000 for it?
This seeming slacker's paradise scenario is a real thing, but since you know what this column is about, you can probably figure out that it's A) orchestrated by NASA, and B) far stranger than it has any business to be.
What, did you think it would be your bed?
The bed will be located in a NASA test facility, and it and its occupant (you) will be monitored and experimented on at any and all times. It will also be tilted at 6 degrees head-down, causing your internal fluids to shift toward the upper part of your body and giving you a weird, puffy look. There will be no bathroom or lunch breaks. There will be bedpans. You will eat what you are given. Your bed is where you eat, sleep, poop, and live. For 70 days. Oh, and the purpose of the experiment is to see how badly your bones and muscles atrophy. Congratulations! You might be making good money, but you do it by painstakingly withering through the "Sloth victim in Se7en" simulator.
To be fair, NASA isn't just doing this for shits and giggles (as far as we know). Their bed studies aim to simulate the effects of prolonged space travel on the human body, and the bed-bound test subjects do have access to video games and other forms of entertainment. So if you're easily immersed, you could technically just Skyrim your way through the ordeal. Even so, 70 days of nigh-total immobility on a gently sloping bed is far from easy for your body, and the first thing the test subjects have to do after completing the study is figure out how to stand up and walk without fainting again.
They're Learning To Turn Animals Into Rocket Fuel
Not every plot NASA hatches is directly about space. They also dabble in things like alternative fuels. After all, rocket fuel is expensive, and our current oil resources are finite. And it's not like they can just solve the issue by figuring out how to turn something like, ha, chickens into fuel.
Wait. T-they can do that?
"Fuck. I mean, cluck."
Yep! In 2011, NASA figured out a recipe for a clean and relatively green biofuel which uses animal fat as its chief ingredient. The press release just name-drops chicken, but the fuel apparently uses both chicken and beef tallow. Which seems kind of unfair, but at least it leaves pigs out of the equation. Even NASA knows better than to sacrifice bacon on the altar of space research.
The project appears to have gone silent since 2011, which I take to mean that either someone sat the space agency down and carefully explained that no star exploration will ever be worth ridding people of their steaks and chicken nuggets, or they're still trying to Frankenstein up an optimal recipe for the fuel, and our next trip to the Moon will be fueled by the distilled essence of a bunch of armadillos and the mortal remains of Harambe. Or maybe the concoction just isn't cost-effective enough. Whatever the reason, my advice remains the same: NASA, since you're already at the "Let's stuff a tiger in the tank" phase of your fuel research, please just learn to make fuel from spiders. Everyone would win. Me in particular.
They Use Dead Bodies To Test Their Spacecraft
Let's say you're a plucky 12-year-old kid who wouldn't be out of place as a supporting character on Stranger Things. It's a boring Saturday afternoon, and you're doing what you always do in such occasions: roaming the hills in search of adventure. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see a gleam of metal in the sky. Being the space expert all 12-year-olds of the world somehow always are, you recognize the strange object parachuting towards you as a NASA landing capsule. Holy balls! You're about to meet a real astronaut!
As the capsule lands and you impatiently pry open its door, you're greeted with a godawful stench which reminds you of your grandmother's open-casket funeral during the hottest day of July. The visage of the man inside the vessel matches the smell. Clearly, he's been dead for quite some time. There are no heroic meetings for you here, son. Go, run like the wind and warn the town. The space zombies are coming!
"Uh, the correct term is 'extraplanetarily deceased.'"
If you think of the context, it's not a terrible surprise that NASA has been known to use human cadavers to test its crafts. After all, corpse testing has played an important, if understandably understated role, in the safety testing of cars. NASA has been known to take a similar approach when developing new spacecraft, up to and very much including their newest Orion capsule. If they need to test a feature and a crash test dummy just can't provide enough data, they fucking well will strap a cadaver into their ultra-modern technology and take notes.
And you know what? As gross and terrifying as it may seem, I'm not even mad about it. Say what you want about humanity, but it's pretty damn hard to believe any other maniac species out there would ever consider strapping dead bodies to vehicles that are meant to take live bodies to an environment specifically designed to kill them, just because we want to go to places and we won't take no for an answer. Aaaand now I kind of want to donate my own body for this. As long as it's for a test that doesn't feature those fucking spiders.
Watch out for the giant urine icicle floating through space in 6 Insane Space Stories You Didn't Learn In History Class and see what parts of "The Martian" happened for real in 6 Insane Things About Space Travel That Movies Got Right.
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