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Discovery blasts off to ISS

Shuttle launch runs on rails

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Space shuttle Discovery today lifted off at 10:21 GMT from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on its STS-131 mission to the International Space Station.

Discovery launches from Kennedy Space Center. Pic: NASA TVOn board are commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton, and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson.

Discovery is due to dock with the ISS on 7 April, bearing the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module packed 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", during which crew will "install a spare ammonia storage tank and return a used one, and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station's exterior".

Up on the orbiting outpost, meanwhile, crew TJ Creamer, Oleg Kotov and Soichi Noguchi yesterday welcomed aboard NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Alexander Skvortsov, who blasted off aboard the Soyuz TMA-18 from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome at 04:04 GMT on Friday.

The sextet comprise Expedition 23, full details of which can be found here. ®

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