Feature

STS-131: Preparing for the Future
03.30.10
 
The STS-131 crew poses in orange suits in front of a picture of Earth

Members of the STS-131 crew are (seated, from right) Commander Alan Poindexter and Pilot Jim Dutton, and (standing, from left) mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Naoko Yamazaki and Clay Anderson. Image Credit: NASA
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The International Space Station serves many purposes. It's a science laboratory, dormitory, fitness center and more, all in one.

Since the first module was launched more than 11 years ago, the space station also has been a construction site. The final components are being delivered, and the orbiting lab is being prepared for many more years of use after the space shuttle stops flying.

Those preparations are the focus of the STS-131 mission of the space shuttle Discovery. It will be delivering supplies to the station, including experiment racks that will support scientific research conducted on the station. The crew will deliver spare parts to be used as needed after the shuttle stops flying. Crew members will perform three spacewalks to make improvements on the station’s exterior.

STS-131 continues the countdown to the end of the space shuttle program. Including this mission, only four shuttle missions are scheduled to fly.

Astronaut Alan Poindexter will be Discovery's commander for the STS-131 mission. Poindexter previously served as pilot for the STS-122 mission, which delivered the European Columbus laboratory module to the space station in 2008. The pilot for STS-131 will be Jim Dutton, who is making his first spaceflight.

Mission specialists for the flight are Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki, who represents the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Mastracchio previously flew on STS-106 in 2000, which prepared the space station for the arrival of its first crew, and on STS-118 in 2007, which added a truss segment to the station.

Clay Anderson lived aboard the space station for five months in 2007 as a member of the Expedition 15 crew.

Stephanie Wilson has made two prior spaceflights, one on STS-121 in 2006 and the other on STS-120 in 2007. STS-121 was the second Return to Flight mission after the shuttle Columbia accident, and STS-120 installed the Harmony node on the space station.

Metcalf-Lindenburger and Yamazaki are both making their first spaceflights on STS-131. Before becoming an astronaut, Metcalf-Lindenburger taught high school Earth science and astronomy. She, Dutton and Yamazaki will be the last astronauts to make their first flights on the space shuttle.

STS-131 crew patch

The design of the STS-131 mission patch shows the logistics module that the shuttle will be delivering to the space station. Image Credit: NASA

Anderson and Yamazaki are using Twitter to share their mission preparations and experience with the public. You can follow along with them online at http://www.twitter.com/Astro_Clay and http://www.twitter.com/Astro_Naoko.

The STS-131 mission is an important step in preparing for the future of spaceflight. NASA is working to carry out a long-term plan that will lead to human exploration of the solar system. Currently, NASA is focused on completing the International Space Station before the shuttle fleet's retirement, planned for late 2010. The station is an important platform for learning how to live and work in space and will be vital to exploration as human space travel extends farther from Earth.

NASA is committed to building strategic partnerships and links between formal and informal educators of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Through hands-on, interactive educational activities, NASA is engaging students, educators, families, the public and all agency stakeholders to increase scientific and technological literacy in the United States.


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David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services