April 5, 2010

Successful Launch For Shuttle Discovery

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched into space early Monday morning, successfully blasting off at 5:21am CDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Discovery's seven-person crew of Commander Alan Poindexter, Pilot Jim Dutton, Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Clay Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, will dock at the International Space Station on Wednesday, April 7.

They will be delivering equipment, supplies, and scientific experiments to the ISS facility, and will also replace a gyroscope on the station's backbone, install a backup ammonia storage tanks, and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the exterior of the station, according to an April 5 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) press release.

"It's time for you to rise to orbit," Peter Nickolenko, the launch director, told the Discovery crew just before their liftoff, according to Associated Press (AP) aerospace reporter Marcia Dunn. "Good luck and Godspeed."

"Enjoy the ride," shuttle test director Laurie Sally added, according to Reuters.

Discovery will be delivering the final laboratory facilities needed to make the ISS research labs fully functional. This is the fourth-to-last shuttle flight, as NASA has announced plans to retire the program by October of this year.

It will also establish a new record for the most female astronauts ever gathered together at one place in space, as the three women on Discovery will join Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who was part of a Russian crew that launched Friday, on board the ISS. In all, 54 women have flown to space.

Discovery is currently scheduled to complete its 38th mission on Sunday, April 18.


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