In an interview with Jeffrey Hoffman, MIT professor and former space shuttle, MIT News ask him about the shuttle retirement. He said he thinks it is time to retire the shuttle and get on with exploration. With respect to the private space industry, he said:
The only thing we need a spaceship for during the next few years is to get up to the space station, but the Russians will do that for us, and maybe even Elon Musk [founder of SpaceX, which is building the privately-funded Falcon 9 rocket] will do that for us. In fact, I'd love to see private industry take over maintaining the low-Earth orbit infrastructure. If private industry could support that on the basis of tourist travel and however else they can make money, then NASA could buy their services at the marginal cost of doing business instead of maintaining the whole infrastructure. I mean, NASA spends a third of its budget just supporting a transportation infrastructure, and if that could be obtained from the private sector, NASA would save a lot of money, which could be used for exploration, which is what I think NASA's real goal should be in the future, not running a transportation system.