Beat me to a space post again. :)
It will be huge if Japan can pull that off. That would elevate them to a distinct status among the space faring nations. The rest of the nations that made it to other bodies came from very large nations or combined agencies like the ESA. It gives a lot more overall momentum to getting there.
Coincidentally today is also the 48th anniversary of the first time human beings actually landed an object on the moon
. Well, Perhaps "landing" is not quite the word to use, but it's the first time we got anything there.
Russia has been reviving a lot of cold war stuff lately in an attempt to regain their world influence. I suppose a try at the moon when we're doing it too was inevitable. I believe the Soviets were going to use Soyuz as their spacecraft to get to the moon. That design has been incredibly refined, so now all they need to do is develop a lander and lifting body. They should be there in no time.
I suppose it would be incredibly ironic for The U.S. and Russians to race to the moon in Apollo and Soyuz derived spacecraft.
Development of Orion/Ares seems to have a lot of momentum. I'm not sure if we'll be right on time with the predicted schedule. When has that ever happened? I do have confidence that the Ares I will launch very early next decade. A lot of finger crossing is happening in regards to the next administrations view on the whole project. Historically presidents haven't really cared what goes on in the space program, so they usually don't get in the way, but we could use a little boost now and again.