This mission includes Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, the third teacher to fly the shuttle. Two other teachers have flown before her, Ricky Arnold, a math and science teacher, and Joseph Acaba, a geologist and math teacher. They flew on the STS-119 shuttle mission in March 2009. All three were selected as mission specialists in the 2004 Educator-Astronaut class. The educational activities on this mission will focus on robotics and will focus on promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Discovery is scheduled to dock to the space station at 3:44 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7. The shuttle will deliver science experiments, equipment and supplies to the station. The flight will include three spacewalks to switch out a gyroscope on the station's truss, or backbone, install a spare ammonia storage tank, and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station's exterior.
Inside the shuttle's cargo bay is the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo, a pressurized "moving van" that will be attached to the station temporarily on April 7 and returned to the shuttle's cargo bay Thursday, April 15. The module is filled with supplies, new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the station's laboratories. This is the final complement of laboratory facilities that will complete the station's overall research capabilities.
"The crew of STS-131 is really honored to represent the thousands of dedicated people that make up the entire NASA, JAXA and contractor workforces," Commander Alan Poindexter said shortly before liftoff.
Poindexter's fellow crew members, in addition to Metcalf-Lindenburg, include Pilot Jim Dutton and Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Clay Anderson and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki. Dutton, Lindenburger and Yamazaki are making their first spaceflights. These three astronauts are the last rookies that will fly aboard the shuttle before its planned retirement.
Discovery's first landing opportunity at Kennedy is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 18. The STS-131 mission will be Discovery's 38th flight and the 33rd shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.
For more information about the space station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station