I'm personally really excited about the New Horizons mission to Pluto! Pluto has been this everlasting mystery body (well.. since 1930) far far away from Earth, and we'll finally get to see it up close! This will be incredible, and will provide great insights into distant planetary bodies like Sedna, forming the trans-neptunian objects, and maybe even large Oort cloud objects. 2014 is going to be great for solar system encounters, with ESA's Rosetta mission and its lander Philae to land on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko!
I'm really excited about the variety of commercial space demonstration missions over the next few years- Orbital recently successfully launched their Antares vehicle from NASA Wallops Flight Facility, SpaceX continues to prove the capabilities of the F9/Dragon combo and there's a demonstration of the F9 heavy coming up (the biggest-capacity booster since the Saturn V!), Bigelow Aerospace has been commissioned to build an inflatable module for ISS, and Virgin Galactic just had their first rocket-powered flight test!
While none of this is new ground from a mission perspective, it's laying the groundwork of a wide variety of cheaper and expanded space capabilities that will come online at NASA over the next few years, so exciting!
I like all of the missions the same because its all new ground so to speak and its important to collect all sorts on new data to further understand the universe we live in. Other than that what would really excite me is not at all happening yet. I am really interested in future mission creating technologically aided self sustaining habitats anywhere in the solar system that we can.
I look forward to the day, say, in which we can have solar panels on Mars powering artificial lighting illuminating plants growing inside atmospherically sealed chambers underground. We know now thanks to experiments on the ISS that plants are not affected by them being grown in gravity other than that what they evolved or were bred for here on Earth. Despite having evolved a form to structurally support them here on Earth they still grew into their genetically determined forms in total weightlessness. Without having read it anywhere, the latter fact causes me to speculate whether if grown in a atmospherically sealed chamber say on Mars, asides from maintaining their Earthly structural form, photosynthetic or other bacteria might also equally be, in an exaptation of sorts, programmed to exude gases right up to the point of creating equal or near air or other pressure at the level they grew in on Earth.
Thanks to other experiments, we also now know that some of the bacteria found on Earth could well thrive in the present low atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars. At the same time, until further studies are made of the effect of releasing said bacteria on Mars, I am not at all interested in that happening. With no means of stopping any gas produced by bacteria feeding on the surface of Mars from escaping the planet, rather than growing in sealed chambers underground, I do not want to destroy potential natural resources like water that might be useful to us in the future.
Apologies if I've deviated too much from this weeks discussion but my main focus on outer space is how to biologically colonize it