STS-128: Endings and Beginnings
The crew of STS-128 in their orange launch and entry suits

Members of STS-128 crew are (seated, from right) Commander Rick Sturckow (right) and Pilot Kevin Ford, and (standing, from left) mission specialists José Hernández, John "Danny" Olivas, Nicole Stott, European Space Agency's Christer Fuglesang, and Patrick Forrester. Image Credit: NASA

As one space program winds down, another is ramping up.

With the STS-128 mission, the Space Shuttle Program draws nearer to its conclusion. After Discovery's flight to the International Space Station, only six shuttle missions will remain.

While the shuttle program is nearing its conclusion, however, the space station continues to grow. The station's crew size recently expanded from three people to six, and that first six-person crew still will be operating the station when Discovery arrives.

Discovery's mission will make the International Space Station "homier" for crews that have to live there. The orbiter's payload bay will contain the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo, loaded with new equipment and supplies for the space station.

A new "bedroom" will be delivered for installation in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module, as well as a new treadmill, COLBERT (Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill). Leonardo will also contain additional life support and scientific experiment racks for the Destiny and Kibo laboratories.

In addition to delivering equipment, the STS-128 crew will conduct three spacewalks, performing tasks that include removing and replacing a materials science experiment mounted on the station's exterior.

Rick Sturckow will be Discovery's commander for the STS-128 mission. Sturckow has visited the space station three times previously. He was the pilot of STS-88, the first space station assembly mission, and of STS-105. He was the commander of STS-117 in 2007. The STS-128 pilot is Kevin Ford, who is making his first spaceflight.

Mission specialists for the flight are John "Danny" Olivas, Patrick Forrester, José Hernández, Christer Fuglesang and Nicole Stott. Olivas and Forrester previously visited the space station with Sturckow on STS-117, and Forrester also flew with Sturckow on STS-105. Fuglesang, of the European Space Agency, visited the space station on the STS-116 mission in 2006. STS-128 will be the first spaceflight for Hernández, who is sharing his experiences on Twitter under the name @Astro_Jose.

The STS-128 patch features the names of the astronauts, the space shuttle orbiter, the space station and Earth

STS-128 is the 37th flight of the space shuttle Discovery. Image Credit: NASA

Stott will be making her first spaceflight with the STS-128 crew. She will stay on the space station as a member of its Expedition 20 crew. After the handover in October, she will remain on the space station as a member of the Expedition 21 crew.

Space station flight engineer Tim Kopra will return to Earth aboard Discovery with the STS-128 crew. Kopra began his stay on the space station during the STS-127 mission in July 2009, his first spaceflight.

The STS-128 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 humans' returning to the moon. Currently, NASA is working to complete the International Space Station by the time the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. The space station is an important platform for learning how to live 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 science, technology, engineering and mathematics formal and informal educators. 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.

Related Resources:
>  STS-128
> Space Shuttle
> COLBERT Ready for Serious Exercise
> @Astro_Jose on Twitter
> International Space Station
> Expedition 20
> NASA Education

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services