Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) unveiled legislation Dec. 17 aimed at keeping the U.S. space shuttle fleet flying beyond its planned 2010 retirement. The plan will keep the shuttle's alive until at least 2015 though possibly past that. The purpose of the bill is to make the transition to the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle a little smoother and in case the Orion Vehicle cannot make crucial trips the shuttle will be there to make the launches. I suppose the bill is a good idea, it strips some funds from NASA while adding others. It comes at the same time as Congress was poised to take up an omnibus spending bill that includes the $17.3 billion the White House requested for NASA for 2008, that would increase the agency's spending on science and aeronautics at the expense of Orion and Ares. The bill proposed by Weldon will provide NASA with $3.7 billion annually for upkeep of the shuttles. Hopefully the bill will not be needed but I expect that it will, regardless of whether it is passed or not. We will soon see what exactly NASA's budget is next year and as soon as I know you will know.
I just found a neat little slideshow about the Orion and Ares vechicles: http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagegallery/igviewer.php?imgid=3562&gid=263