this (be sure to click on the image and move it around--in particular look at the ceiling). Tell me you didn't just imagine yourself as the pilot or commander of the shuttle with an emergency and having to remember which switch to flick. (o-kay, just me then...)
This is all well and good, but what do you do when you need to research something that doesn't exist? Anyone writing paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction understands what I'm talking about. Although, if you're writing hard SF you're probably trying to extrapolate as much as you can from what's considered possible in science today (and good luck with not driving yourself crazy with that).
What you can do is research technology that you plan to use that does exist, along with just about any other topic that might be useful. Look, In the last few months I've read more than I should probably admit about a lot of topics: airships, European royal families since the 1600s, history of ferries, steam engines, physics, electricity, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Caroline Herschel, comets, Queen Victoria, and the nature of invention, just to name a few.
Mostly I needed to know what is (or what was) in order to figure out what I wanted to change for the alternate history of my story world. Turns out I changed a lot of things. I still think it was easier to create my story world this way than to build a world out of whole cloth, but your mileage may vary.
That can only go so far, though. What about all those gadgets and widgets and clockwork devices? What about the magic? This, quite frankly is where I step off the Research Bus into terra incognita and, ahem, Make Stuff Up. There are rules to how magic and technology work in my alternate world and I try to make sure that the Stuff I Make Up doesn't violate those rules. So long as there's internal consistency, I'm good.
So there you have it -- I research the impossible by Making Stuff Up! There are days, though, when I really, really wish that ray gun actually worked...