Space shuttle era may end in 2010. It is a disappointing reality the USA is placing science and the potential profits of space exploration on the back burner. In my humble opinion the shuttle should be ran right up to the point that a new shuttle is put into operation. Let me re state a new and improved shuttle is the practical next step for NASA but the powers to be have opted to back slide by developing the Orion, a smaller spacecraft that would launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center and parachute landings in the western United States. The Orion is not a shuttle but a crew space exploration capsule.
We must launch our own mission, to contine the space shuttle program so the United States never looses the capacity to send astronauts into space until the Orion's first lift off.