NASA Budget

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NASA's chief says a new spaceship could be ready to replace the nation's aging shuttle fleet by 2011. That would be three years ahead of schedule. But NASA Administrator tells a congressional panel that Congress must add money to NASA's proposed budget if its to meet that timetable.

Currently, the target date for building a new vehicle is 2014.

With his pitch to Congress, Griffin underscored a point he has made previously about completing the spaceship on a faster time frame.

Griffin says an additional one (B) billion dollars could accelerate the program's completion.

The shuttle is to be retired in 2010, and lawmakers are concerned about when a replacement will be ready.

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison says the nation doesn't want a so-called "flight gap" between the shuttles and their replacement because it could present a security risk.