NASA is cutting its budget and cutting programs. In economic times like these it is not surprising. But I cannot help but wish we could do more solar system exploration. This is an area I have focused a lot of my effort on in my own research. NASA’s priorities are sometimes different than mine would be. I do not think that everything about solar system exploration should revolve around the search for life, or former life, on other planets or moons. So for instance in the several Mars missions of recent years, I’m more interested in Mars’ geology and its history whereas NASA is more interested in possible evidences of past life on Mars.
NASA seems to think Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa are some of the most important science destinations in the solar system. Both of them have been the topic of speculation about life. In the discussions of possible life on other planets, it is never admitted that there is no explanation for how life could arise on a planet that is ideally suited to life (our own planet). Scientists cannot explain how life could evolve from chemicals on this planet or any other planet. Extraterrestrials are not going to be an answer either, though some might hope in that. Better to put hope in the God of the Bible, who has created for a purpose. He is the only possible First Cause of life.
But where would I send new missions if it were possible? I think there’s good reason to go back to our own Moon. There is a need to put newer technology to work in exploring the Moon. Some has been done but I think since several non-American nations have plans to go to the Moon, the United States should make it a priority. Then I would also pick Mars for its geology, I’d also pick Jupiter’s moon Ganymede (largest moon in our solar system), and Saturn’s moon Titan. I’m also interested in missions to the asteroids (there have been some and will be more soon). Mars has many interesting mysteries geologically and I suspect it will point to catastrophic processes. Ganymede has a wide range of interesting geological structures and it is actually larger than the planet Mercury. It also is perhaps one of a few (or maybe the only) moon in the solar system known to have a magnetic field. This is probably an indication of a young age (as in thousands not billions of years). Then Titan (Saturn’s moon with an atmosphere thicker than Earth) is very unique and interesting in its own ways. It’s thick atmosphere is largely Nitrogen and a mix of many organic compounds. There are issues scientists have with trying to explain how it could have methane left in its atmosphere after alleged billions of years of chemical reactions using it up. Carl Sagan actually did some research on Titan and scientists consider it a model of how they think Earth once was as Earth was forming. (I don’t believe this either.)