For a while there it looked like NASA was dropping out of the race to develop future technologies for space travel. Space crafts were aging and being retired, and the government simply didn’t have the money to invest in new programs for manned deep spaceflight. Surprise! NASA has just released images of its new Deep Space Transportation System craft called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, assembled by Lockheed Martin. The MPCV is designed to take 4 astronauts on missions of 3 weeks or more, eventually aiming toward longer missions that could take humans to planets such as Mars, where only unmanned space craft have previously traveled.

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The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is being billed as “10 times safer during ascent and entry than its predecessor, the space shuttle.” So maybe we aren’t headed to Mars just yet, but we will be safely chauffeuring astronauts back and forth between the Earth and Moon. The Deep Space Transportation System is the follow-up to the current Space Transportation System (code for the Space Shuttle program), so as the current shuttle is retired, expect this new program, and manned deep space flight, to be NASA’s focus. Maybe there is hope for space travel beyond the X Prize.