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Discovery is go for April launch

'We are ready to fly', says NASA

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Discovery is ready for a 5 April launch on its STS-131 mission to the International Space Station.

Discovery on the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center. Pic: NASA"We are ready to fly," declared Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, last Friday, following a "thorough review" of the spacecraft and systems.

The shuttle will blast off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A at 10:21 GMT, carrying the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module filled with "supplies, a new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the station's laboratories".

The 13-day mission will feature "three spacewalks to switch out a gyroscope on the station's truss, or backbone, install a spare ammonia storage tank and return a used one, and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station's exterior".

On board will be commander Alan Poindexter and pilot Jim Dutton (seated right and left), and (l-r) mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson:

The Discovery crew. Pic: NASA

Anderson and Yamazaki are both twittering away like good 'uns during their pre-launch training, and plan to tweet from orbit, NASA says. The agency has the usual mission page here, mission summary here (pdf) and press kit here (pdf).

Up on the ISS, meanwhile, crew members TJ Creamer, Oleg Kotov and Soichi Noguchi are preparing to welcome additional Expedition 23 flight engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko (seen l-r):

The Expedition 23 crew. Pic: NASA

The trio will arrive on 4 April aboard the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft, due to lift off on 2 April from Baikonur Cosmodrome. ®

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