Deeper in the solar system, on Europa, a large spacecraft lands near a fissure and drops small probes into the ocean far below.

Beyond the Moon, a telescope with a specially fitted shade images an Earth-like exoplanet for the first time, possibly finding chemical markers of life.

It all sounds like science fiction, but a new budget for NASA proposed by the US House of Representatives includes seed money for all of these initiatives, some of which are receiving funding for the first time.

Most of these concepts should therefore survive.

NASA has some instruments—including the James Webb Space Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite—coming in the next decade that will begin to scratch around the edges of this problem.

The House bill directs NASA to consider a variety of sci-fi-like options, including antimatter-catalyzed fusion, the Bussard interstellar ramjet, matter-antimatter annihilation reactions, multiple forms of beamed energy approaches, and immense "sails" that intercept solar photons or the solar wind.

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