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NASA's staff will study whether the space shuttle program could continue operating past its scheduled retirement in 2010, according to an internal e-mail sent this week.
The e-mail obtained by The Orlando Sentinel describes NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's order for a study to determine if the shuttle could fly until 2015, when NASA's next-generation space platform is expected to be completed.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain was one of several senators asking NASA to delay ramping down the shuttle program for at least a year. Democratic nominee Barack Obama has called for $2 billion for NASA to extend the shuttle past 2010.
Griffin has repeatedly raised the issue of how much it would cost to keep the shuttle flying. Last year, he estimated it could cost $4 billion each year past 2010.
"Continuing to fly the Shuttle beyond 2010 does not enhance U.S. human spaceflight capability, but rather delays the time until a new capability exists and increases the total life cycle cost to bring the new capability on line," he told Congress in November.