Discovery's penultimate mission
Sen—NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off today from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
This mission is the 131st mission for the Space Transportation System (NASA's naming convention for the Space Shuttle programme) - STS-131 and the 38th flight of Discovery.
The 13 day mission will deliver a multi-purpose logistics module filled with science racks to be transferred to laboratories on the International Space Station. The mission will feature three spacewalks.
There are seven astronauts on board Discovery. The mission is being led by 48 year old former US Navy Captain Commander Alan Poindexter. Jim Dutton, aged 41, is the pilot for the mission. The 5 mission specialists are : Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki. This is the first space flight for 34 year old Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger. Naoko Yamazaki is a Japanese astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
After Discovery returns from this mission there will be just three more flights of the shuttle. The final - and 134th flight - is scheduled to take place in September 2010 with Discovery undertaking the final mission.
Note: An additional flight, STS-135, in fact was necessary and took place in July 2011.