Factbox - Shuttle Discovery's mission and crew

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The Independent Online

US space shuttle Discovery blasted off on today on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station, one of the final resupply flights before the United States retires the shuttle fleet later this year.

Here are the main points of the 131st shuttle mission.

- Discovery carries an Italian-built cargo pod named Leonardo stocked with 17 tons of equipment and supplies for the space station.



- Three spacewalks are planned during Discovery's nine-day stay at the station to install a new tank of ammonia coolant, replace one of the station steering system's gyroscopes and work on the Canadian-built Dextre robot.



- The shuttle carries the last of four U.S. sleeping quarters for the station and a third freezer to hold experiment samples.



- New equipment includes an exercise assessment system known as MARES to help astronauts monitor muscle strength in space; cameras, scanners and imagers for Earth monitoring studies; and a commercial water supply system that NASA can tap if supplies run low.



- The mission marks the first time two astronauts from JAXA, the Japanese space agency, will be in orbit at the same time. Naoko Yamazaki is a member of the shuttle Discovery crew, and Soichi Noguchi is part of the six-member resident space station crew.

- Discovery is scheduled to close out the shuttle program in September with a final cargo haul to the station.

Here's a brief look at the crew:

- Commander and U.S. Navy Captain Alan Poindexter, 48, of Pasadena, California. Graduate of Georgia Tech and Naval Postgraduate School. Married, with two children, Poindexter is the son of John Poindexter, National Security Adviser under President Ronald Reagan. He has made one previous spaceflight.



- Pilot and U.S. Air Force Colonel James Dutton, 41, of Eugene, Oregon. Graduate of U.S. Air Force Academy and University of Washington in Seattle. Married with four sons, Dutton was selected as an astronaut in 2004. He is making his first spaceflight.



- Flight engineer Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, 34, of Fort Collins, Colorado. A former high school science teacher, Metcalf-Linderburger graduated from Whitman College in Washington and received her teaching certification from Central Washington University. Married with one child she was selected as an astronaut - one of three teachers currently in the corps - in 2004. She is making her first flight.



- Lead spacewalker Rick Mastracchio, 50, of Waterbury, Connecticut. Graduated from University of Connecticut, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University of Houston-Clear Lake. Worked as systems design engineer with Hamilton Sunstrand before joining NASA as software engineer. Selected as an astronaut in 1996, Mastracchio is making his third spaceflight.



- Spacewalker Clay Anderson, 51, of Ashland, Nebraska. Graduated from Hastings College in Nebraska and Iowa State University. Married with two children. Spent five months aboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 15 crew. Anderson is making his second spaceflight.



- Stephanie Wilson, 43, of Boston. Graduated from Harvard and University of Texas. Hired by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to work on the Galileo Jupiter space probe and other programs. Selected as an astronaut in 1996, Wilson has made two previous spaceflights.



- Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, 39, of Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from the University of Tokyo and joined Japan's space agency to help develop its space station laboratory. Married, with one child, Yamazaki was selected as an astronaut in 1999. Trained to serve as Russian Soyuz flight engineer and NASA mission specialist. She is making her first spaceflight.

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