Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say - New York Times
Although not elegent, I do support this simple solution for the shuttle. A reconfiguration is better than the current setup, and cheaper than coming up with a whole new vehicle like the shuttle that noone seems to want ot pay for. Until we can get a proper space plane, then I say use rockets. Besides, space plane for people, let pure rockets bring up the cargo. I love the idea of a 100 ton lifter. That's the better solution. Think of that. 5 shuttle launches to equal one of those big boys. 5 billion US instead of likely less than one billion to get all that tonage up there. If we really want to get to mars and back to the moon, then we need a big heavy lifter to space.
Check out their idea for the better solution at Safe Simple Soon . Granted it's a goofy name, but I do support the idea.
Using the existing booster to get people into orbit would work fine. Those things are great and have never exploded. Even when they caused the Challenger disaster in 86, it was more the fault of launching outside the temperature window. Even then, in this configuration, you could simple use the tower jet (mini rocket at on top of the CRV to separate the crew from teh rocket, and they would not have been lost.