Florida 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 describes NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's order for a study to determine whether the shuttle could fly until 2015, when NASA's next-generation space platform is expected to be completed.
"We want to focus on helping bridge the gap of U.S. vehicles traveling to the ISS (International Space Station) as efficiently as possible," wrote John Coggeshall, manager of manifest and schedules at Johnson Space Center in Houston, in the e-mail sent Wednesday.
NASA officials confirmed the e-mail's authenticity, but said it was too soon to say what the study's reach would be.
Griffin has previously opposed extending the shuttle program, which first launched in 1981, because the money and effort required to do so would hurt progress with the new Constellation launch platform for future orbital flights and proposed lunar missions.