The Future... in SPACE

While your tin-foil-suited life in a moon bubble may still be a long way off, there are some very exciting unmanned missions coming up over the next decade. All of the missions listed below have either already been launched or are launching this year.

August 2007: Launch
May 2008: Land on Mars

Phoenix is the latest rover lander mission to Mars, and it's heading to a radically new environment from the ones we've seen from landers so far. Phoenix will land on Mars' northern polar region, looking to understand the history of the ice there (and thereby also the history of Mars' climate) and also to search for microbial life. On top of that it has a really nifty set of fan-like solar panels.
Phoenix homepage

New Horizons
February 2007: Jupiter gravity assist
July 2015: Arrival at Pluto

New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto, and our first proper look at it. Next month, New Horizons will also become the latest mission to Jupiter, where it will hopefully do some science and get some pretty pictures. In the long run, New Horizons may also go on to visit other Kuiper Belt Objects.
New Horizons homepage

Summer 2007: launch
March 2009: Mars gravity assist
September 2011: Arrival at Vesta
February 2015: Arrival at Ceres

Dawn is a spacecraft I find it easy to get excited about: a mission to Ceres and Vesta, the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt. Vesta seems to be a pretty standard potato as asteroids go, but Ceres is round enough to qualify as a dwarf planet and seems to have some interesting features, although we have no detailed images of it.
Dawn homepage

June 2007: Venus gravity assist
March 2011: Mercury orbit insertion

The only spacecraft so far to vist the Sun's innermost planet was Mariner 10, probably because not only is it really hard to get to, so far into the Sun's gravity well, but once you're there you have to worry about intense heat and radiation. MESSENGER looks set to give us a good look at a planet that's been off the guest list for too long.
MESSENGER homepage

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