All Hail Orion
You may have noticed recently that NASA has announced the name of the craft that will form the backbone of the programme to return to the moon, they're calling it Orion.
Most people are aware of NASA's Apollo spacecraft that took part in their last lunar missions, they first delivered man to the moon. Orion will hopefully become as famous as it's older brother for not only returning to the moon, but establishing a longer term presence there, and then heading for Mars.
Lockheed Martin has won the contract to build the vessels, which includes Orion, but also covers Ares 5 rocket to carry the lander and departure stages and the Ares 1 which will boost Orion into space. Between them they will take over the role of ferrying people and equipment to our lunar body from the legendary Saturn V.
I really do admire the Americans for dumping the money and manpower into this venture, at a time when political will and public opinion seems unsure about space flight.
I've long been a believer in the potential of space, not just for the resources it can offer, but also as tool to inspire, create awe and draw different people's together, not to mention re-light interest in the sciences. I also think it would be wise for the human race to not have all it's 'eggs' in one basket when global disaster comes calling. Whether it be a meteorite, a rogue asteroid, a supervolcano, a superbug, global warming, cosmic radiation or something else we have seen evidence of how easily a species can be killed off.
We're smarter than any that have gone before and if any species could survive it would probably be us, but populating other planets or celestial bodies spreads the risk. We won't accomplish that with Orion, it's a long-term goal, but we need to make a start and Orion might just be the first step.