The DIRECT guys claim they can get us back into (manned) space by 2013 with the Jupiter 120 launcher, as opposed to 2015 for Ares I (which may be sliding now to 2016 due to various difficulties) - assuming the word "go" is given in April after a 60 day review. On the moon by 2017 instead of 2020.
It seems unconscionable to wait six years without a manned capability. Of course with luck SpaceX will be available with their Dragon capsule by 2011-2012 (I hope that happens either way, so that NASA can get out of the Low Earth Orbit game and leave that to private contractors and private enterprise), but there's no guarantee. This still leaves a three year gap, but that's more manageable, and easier to fill with SpaceX or, with considerably higher risk, extending the shuttles with a few more missions if Congress is really willing to cough up the extra cash they're talking about.
So I do hope Obama's people really listened to the DIRECT presentation seriously, and have it independently assessed. It's not too late to ditch Ares and go DIRECT.
And if their charts and data are to believed (and I have no reason to doubt it), payload capabilities blow any configuration of Aries away.
More bang for the taxpayers buck while saving as much of the investments in infrastructure for the current system. What a concept. Therefore Congress won't even look at it.