NASA's current budget proposal includes requests for funds for a manned flyby of Mars in the early 2020s and for planning a mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa.
NASA recently released an overview of its $17 billion budget request for fiscal year 2015, which "includes funding for missions to Mars and the formulation for a mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa," according to a statement by administrator Charles Bolden.
Members of the House Science Committee have already endorsed NASA's proposal to send astronauts on a flyby of Mars, which will serve as a stepping stone to furthering manned exploration of our universe. The plan is to launch two astronauts into space in November 2021; their spacecraft would fly past Venus in April 2022 and Mars in October of that year, then return to Earth in June 2023.
"It is the least complex mission profile for reaching the Mars vicinity," said Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for exploration, during a committee hearing on February 27. "The mission provides an opportunity for an incredible first step that will make travel to Mars real to the people of the world."
Europa is of interest to the scientific community due to the moon being covered in water ice, with evidence suggesting that a liquid ocean may lie beneath. If that proves to be the case, then Europa may be our best opportunity to find alien microbial life in our solar system.