Of course, there are certain things that are happening in research labs and up in space currently, but we could still further exploration if we tried. For instance, the Constellation Program of NASA has an agenda that puts man back on the moon in 2020. However, the program has been described as already over budget and behind schedule. There are many other new propositions in space exploration that need to be taken seriously and funded.
There has been talk about the International Space Station and the reason it is hovering above the Earth. The International Space Station, which has had 202 astronauts on board working to complete it and recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of humans inhabiting it, is all about analyzing and focusing on the effects of long-term human space travel. Currently, they are concentrating on microgravity and how it affects humans, physics, and other matter. This type of research seems beneficial to understanding how humans would react if we were to ever visit Mars or other distant planets.
In relation to distant planets that could be explored, there has been a newly discovered one called Gliese 581 that is orbiting a red dwarf and has a composition very similar to Earth's. Scientists have said that there is a strong possibility of finding life there. If we could somehow find a way to get to this planet, it could open up innumerable doors of research and possibly technology. If there was alien life there who knows what this would mean to have this discovery under our belt? Even if there was no sentient life there, we would have an entirely new world to examine and study. The results of this journey would be extremely fruitful and beneficial to the future.
A new means of travel has recently come to popularity from a YouTube video, all about space elevators. Space elevators were proposed in the late 19th century, but because of new technology and a means to build them, it seems like this could be a definite possibility. A huge anchorage system would be in place on Earth, while the elevator, made of carbon nanotubes, would take passengers up into the vicinity of Earth's orbit. Making this a reality would mean that, for a price, simple civilians could experience the wonder and awe of outer space and would help garner some much deserved attention for the amazing technology of this innovation. Not to say it would turn into a type of amusement park ride, but this would generate interest in the space program by making exploration readily available to more and more people.