Madelain Tigano–The Corsair
Alan Poindexter, PJC alumnus and Commander of the STS-131 Discovery space shuttle, is scheduled to walk out with his crew of seven at 2:34 a.m. EST.
From there the crew will take a bus to the Discovery shuttle, boarding the shuttle at 3:01 a.m.
Poindexter will lead the crew to the international space station on a 13-day mission delivering equipment and supplies. He will be assisted by Pilot, Jim Dutton.
The shuttle launch expects to lift off at 6:21 a.m. with 80 percent chance the weather will be clear with a 20 percent chance of fog, meteorologist Kathy Winters said.
Inside Discovery’s cargo bay is a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module called Leonardo, which basically works as a moving van. Leonardo allows the shuttle to deliver shipments of equipment and supplies, and it is also used to return science experiments.
The STS-131 is Leonardo’s last round trip with a shuttle mission. It will only deliver experiments back to the ground after this mission and is set to fly another time on the STS-133 mission, but will not return from the ISS.
Leonardo will also hold the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) which will be used for research for a better understanding of the effects of microgravity on the muscular system.
“MARES are capable of supporting measurements and exercise on seven different human joints, and encompassing nine different angular movements,” NASA STS-131 mission summary said.
Poindexter explains this experiment is important, because it takes six weeks for the astronauts to regain normal muscle use after a space mission, and longer for astronauts who spend several days at the ISS.
Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson will perform three spacewalks lasting at about six and a half hours each. One of the jobs during spacewalks is to retrieve a seed experiment from the outside of the Japanese laboratory.
Naoko Yamazaki is from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the STS-131 is her first spaceflight. Yamazaki is the second woman from Japan to fly to space since the first back in the 1980’s.
Accompanying Yamazaki are Stephanie Wilson and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger in the STS-131 crew team. These three ladies are meeting a fourth already located at the space station, which will break history books for the first time four women have been in space at once.
But there won’t be many more shuttle launches as it is due to retire, with only three left after the STS-131.
“I think [Obama] understands the importance of a mission and a focus to have inspiration throughout both the education system and science and technology community,” Mike Moses said, chair in the Mission Management Team. “We see that in his budget increases and his support for NASA.”
STS-131 Lauch director, Pete Nickolenko, agreed with Moses and stated his thoughts about the future of NASA.
“Throughout all of NASA, we have a passion for doing this kind of work and being a part of something special,” he said. “We fully expect to be engaged in some capacity in that way even after the shuttle program ends.”