3D Program Recommendations?

Hi, all. I'm working on a TC*. Ideally I'd like to make my own ship and outfit graphics in a 3D program.

I've done a little bit of 3D work many years ago, using Strata 3D to make ships for an Ares plug-in. Strata 3D is no longer available, so I'm looking for a cheap or free modern program to use.

I know of Blender, but am wondering if anyone who has more experience in this area has any other recommendations?

Alternately, if any 3D graphics guru is interested in joining the project, that'd be awesome too! 🙂

*I can't promise that I'll finish the TC, but I've been making some great progress so far and am very much hoping to release at least a mini-version.

I've been meaning to learn Blender for a while now, but as someone who's only other 3D modeling experience comes from Sketchup, it's a daunting task. That being said, Sketchup is simple and a free version is available. It cannot render on its own, but I hear there's a Windows-only plugin which allows it to do so. It can also export to formats other rendering programs can read. So you could model a ship in Sketchup and then import to, say, Blender, do the texturing and lighting, then render.

Ooh, I've downloaded Sketchup and will try it out soon. 🙂