While we might be quick to whine about our lack of flying cars, hoverboards, lightsabers, time machines, teleporters, self-tying sneakers, personal robot servants, jet packs, and people walking around with three boobs, we have to admit NASA has actually been science-fictioning things up over the last few years. How so?

8
Morpheus Can Land Like a UFO

Anything stereotypically UFO-like in the history of NASA inventions has been shat on and cooked alive by the underside exhaust flames of NASA's latest "Shit, is that a real UFO?" achievement: Project Morpheus.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
"We came up with the idea after chili day at the cafeteria."

Project Morpheus is an unmanned prototype lander capable of vertically landing in darkness on rugged terrain, thanks to its Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology, which is presumably named after the prolific Dr. Alhat.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASAKennedy

Composed of giant steel balls and an underside from which flames are farted, Project Morpheus is expected to trailblaze future lunar, planetary, and asteroid missions, assuming we ever figure out how to fund said missions in the first place. Morpheus has come a long way since its first prototypes; at least now it can land without tipping over and bursting into flames like its 2012 iteration.

7
A Submarine Designed for a Frozen Methane Moon

NASA recently approved research funding for a dozen of their wackiest ideas, most of which were probably written during daily NASA weed walks inside the Vomit Comet. Among the winners is a submarine designed to explore Titan's hydrocarbon lakes. Titan, in case you've forgotten, is one of Saturn's moons. It boasts a temperature of minus 290 F, so the sub won't include a drawer for Bermuda shorts if the design ever takes off.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
James Cameron heard the term "space submarine" and passed out from the ensuing erection.

And what will this hypothetical space sub be diving into? Just a liquid, methane-filled lake called Kraken Mare. For real. As if the prospect of submerging a contraption on a gassy space planet isn't horrifying enough, scientists went through the trouble of naming Titan's lake after a sea monster. Don't worry, though. If everything goes as planned, we won't be reading the inevitable headlines about Titan's fish people using our own technology to impregnate the Earth itself until 2040.

6
The Orion Crew Module

If you ever wondered why NASA hasn't made classier ways of sending its astronauts out into the great deep perennial maw of space, then this will finally put you at peace: Meet NASA's Orion crew module, which looks like what would happen if you gave Apple enough money to move into commercial spaceships.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA/Rad Sinyak
It also helps NASA security spot shoplifters.

The shiny-assed underside of the Orion is actually the heat shield that's attached to the bottom of the Orion itself, which, disappointingly, took the retro NASA route. Putting them together will be like Nicki Minaj hooking up with Cary Grant.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionKen Kremer
"Hey, at least we took the wood side paneling off this one."

The Orion is expected to have its first test flight in December 2014, with the eventual goal of carrying humans to a place where a 1960s rocket and a futuristic shiny foil capsule can live together in harmony without everyone judging them for their love.

5
This New Spacesuit Is a Cross Between Tron and Buzz Lightyear

Never ones to consider themselves immune from viral social-media pandering, NASA recently held an online contest allowing the public to vote on the next spacesuit. There were three choices -- known as "Biomimicry," "Technology," and "Trends in Society."

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
"We were also supposed to have a contest for the suit names but instead just phoned that shit in."

Two months later, NASA revealed that the "Technology" suit had beat the other two, because all else being equal, glowing things will always beat non-glowing things.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
"We originally wanted it to light up your junk whenever you posed like this."

This suit won't actually ever make it off Earth -- it's just the second in a series of prototypes that NASA plans to test and configure until they figure out something good enough to help humans survive on the Red Planet. With any luck, subsequent versions will not have the part of the suit that makes our astronauts look like they're wearing jorts to space.

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.

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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.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
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?

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionWalt 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.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
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.

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionNASA
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?

8 Real NASA Projects Straight Out of Science FictionMark 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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