Despite some challenges, humankind pulled off landing a spacecraft on a comet. If you were in charge of the next major space mission, where would you choose to go?
You may have noticed the European Space Agency managed to place a lander on a comet, a huge chunk of ice and rock flying through space. Despite some hiccups with the landing, it was a stunning milestone in space exploration.
Over the past few years, we've had a lot to celebrate in terms of space news, including the Curiosity rover landing on Mars and an endless bevy of fabulous images from the Cassini spacecraft. Naturally, this brings us to "What's next?"
The idea of launching a big, triumphant, world-grabbing mission inevitably leads us to the concept of sending manned missions farther out into space than ever before. Even though we've been there before, the moon hasn't necessarily lost its appeal. It's fairly close by and we've pulled off successful human moon landings, though we haven't had a person on the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972. A manned moon mission could be a rallying point for the whole planet. Who doesn't love a little lunar action?
However, a lot of scientists have their hopes set on farther reaches of the solar system, specifically Mars. An independent project called Mars One would love to be the first manned mission to the Red Planet, but it's more likely an established space agency like NASA would be able to get it together first. Indeed, NASA's head of planetary science, Jim Green, enthused over the ESA's Rosetta comet mission by saying it should inspire mankind to explore beyond our planet and head to Mars and out into the solar system.
The moon and Mars aren't the only fascinating heavenly bodies out there. Saturn's moon Titan has been the subject of much curiosity and wonder thanks to its hydrocarbon seas and mysterious disappearing island. Plenty of scientists and space fans would love to see an unmanned mission head to the surface of Titan to get a better look around.
Let's pretend you're the head of a major space agency and you get to choose the next big mission out into our solar system. Are you prepared to send people back to the moon, gear up for a settlement on Mars or explore the strangeness of Titan? Maybe you have another destination in mind entirely. Vote in our poll and chat it out in the comments.