Re: How many Shuttles could have been kept operative..
a SpaceX or Boeing shuttle is a good idea. Private sector goes beyond prototypes and, because it needs to show a profit, are more likely to come up with efficient and practical solutions.
Not like NASA wasn't needed to HAVE a shuttle program. I think it was intended long ago that the shuttle be replaced with something newer. unfortunately, Con-Grab has wasted money on 'other things' (mostly social programs and giveaways and waste/fraud/abuse) INSTEAD of NASA, for DECADES... because space shuttles don't get people elected. [yeah they just promote the 'space industrial complex', create jobs and new technology, and promote science, and make heroes out of astronauts, yotta yotta - all very good things but not a priority for politicians]
I'd love it if the NASA budget were 10 times what it is right now. Pay for it by eliminating social programs and giveaways and waste/fraud/abuse. When you spend gummint money on shuttles, you get shuttles and launches. When you give it away in the form of social programs, you enable the lazy, sustain dependency, and "buy votes". Guess which one POLITICIANS prefer?