When US astronauts successfully walked on the moon 45 years ago, it was the culmination of years of science being leveraged to do something that most thought was impossible. Unfortunately, this was not done solely for the sake of science - it was also to have a leg up on the Soviet Union. The US was "behind" in the Cold War space race, since the Soviet Union launched the first satellite (Sputnik) and the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin).
With NASA's new plan, entitled Next Giant Leap, to launch manned missions to Mars, we have an opportunity to leverage the positive scientific aspects of the moon landing without the xenophobia and Cold War mentality that perpetrated it. This time, we're doing it just for the science, and it involves a freaking ASTEROID.
By practicing with the moon and an asteroid, our astronauts can learn how to become reliant on being in space for the several months that it takes to get to Mars. The space shuttle has been retired, but NASA is building a more powerful rocket (the Space Launch System or SLS) to carry the new Orion spacecraft to Mars. Exciting days are ahead!