Countdown Clock Ticking for Discovery Blast off on April 5

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(Editor’s Note: Ken Kremer is at the Kennedy Space Center for Universe Today covering the flight of Discovery)
At the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, the countdown clock is ticking towards blast off for the STS 131 assembly mission of Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station. Discovery is slated to lift off on Monday, April 5 at 6:21 AM.

Mike Moses, chairman of NASA’s Mission Management Team at KSC announced a “Unanimous Go for Launch” at the KSC pre-launch news briefing today, April 3. “This is one of the most heavily packed shuttle missions with science equipment and will position the ISS very well for science in the future”

The weather forecast is 80 % Favorable.

The international crew of seven astronauts arrived at the Shuttle landing strip at KSC on a Gulfstream II jet at 7 AM on Thursday morning (April 1). They were greeted by KSC Director Bob Cabana and the media including myself.

“The crew’s ready to go and we’re looking forward to our mission to the International Space Station. It’s a complex 13-day mission. It’s main mission is resupply. We also have three very challenging EVAs,” said Shuttle Commander Alan Poindexter.

Discovery crew arrives at the Shuttle Landing Strip at the Kennedy Space Center on April 1. The 7 person crew is led by Commander Alan Poindexter (at right). Jim Dutton (at mic) will serve as the pilot. Mission Specialists (from left) are Clay Anderson, Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Rick Mastracchio. Credit: Ken Kremer

Pre-launch operations have been on-going for several months. I had the opportunity to participate in media tours to inspect her primary cargo, the Leonardo resupply module, inside the Space Station Processing Facility at KSC and take a quite rare and absolutely thrilling visit to witness Discovery close up from directly on top of Launch Pad 39A as her giant payload canister was delivered to the massive pad structure on March 19, 2010.

Nestled inside Discovery’s cargo bay is the ‘Leonardo’ Multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) and a 3800 lb Ammonia cooling tank. Leonardo weighs over 27,000 pounds and is jam packed with16 science and stowage racks including the 3rd MELFI low temperature science freezer, the 4th crew personal quarters and the WORF space science imagery experiment which features Klingon inscriptions for future visitors.

STS-131 will be the 33rd shuttle mission to the station and the 131st shuttle mission overall. This will be the penultimate voyage for Discovery.

Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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