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  STS-131/Discovery: ISS Experiment Express [Flight Day Journal] (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   STS-131/Discovery: ISS Experiment Express [Flight Day Journal]
Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Countdown

STS-131 / Discovery: ISS Experiment Express

STS-131, the 33rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station, will deliver the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo filled with science racks to be transferred to the orbiting laboratory. The flight will feature three spacewalks.

Alan Poindexter will command space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 crew. Jim Dutton will serve as the pilot. Mission specialists are Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Clay Anderson and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.


Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

Space shuttle Discovery is seen on Pad 39A, April 4, 2010.

Do you have comments and/or questions about the STS-130 mission? Post to our mission viewing and commentary thread.

For prior status updates about STS-131 see Readying Discovery to loft Leonardo.

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Countdown

STS-131 Factoids

  • The solid rocket boosters launching Discovery have been assembled from segments flown on 60 prior space shuttle missions. The oldest? STS-1. Most recent? STS-120.

  • As currently scheduled, STS-131 will be the last space shuttle flight to be in orbit on the anniversary of the STS-1 mission (April 12-14, 1981).

  • STS-131 is the 33rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station and the 38th flight for orbiter Discovery.

  • As currently manifested, STS-131 is the last shuttle mission to launch with a full crew complement of seven astronauts.

  • STS-131 is the last of the shuttle crews to include astronauts making their first spaceflight. James Dutton, Dorothy (Dottie) Metcalf-Lindenburger and Naoko Yamazaki will bring the total number of people who have launched on the space shuttle to 350.

  • Once aboard the International Space Station, STS-131's crew, together with the six Expedition 23 crew members, will tie the record for the most people on one spacecraft: 13.

  • STS-131's Naoko Yamazaki will be the last of Japan's astronauts to fly on the space shuttle. She, and fellow Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard the space station, will set a record for the most Japanese astronauts in space at one time: two.

  • STS-131 mission specialists Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy (Dottie) Metcalf-Lindenburger and Naoko Yamazaki will tie the record for the most women aboard a space shuttle mission: three. Together with Tracy Caldwell Dyson aboard the space station, they will set a record for the most women in space at one time: four.

  • This is Discovery's penultimate flight. The orbiter, designated OV-103, is scheduled to fly just one more mission, STS-133 in September 2010.

STS-131 mission patch. Credit: NASA

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Countdown

Discovery fueled for flight

Shuttle Discovery's external tank has now been filled with 526,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

Fueling reached "stable replenish" of both cryogenic propellants at 12:21 a.m. EDT (LH2 reached "stable replenish" just after midnight).

The three-hour tanking process provides the fuel and oxidizer that Discovery's three main engines will require for its eight and a half minute journey to orbit, which is scheduled to begin with a liftoff at 6:21 a.m. EDT.

The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of good weather for launch, and no issues are expected to prevent an on-time predawn liftoff.


Credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Countdown

Astronauts depart for Discovery

The crew of STS-131 left their quarters and departed for Pad 39A at 2:31 a.m. EDT riding on the "AstroVan," a modified Airstream trailer. They arrived at their ride to orbit, shuttle Discovery, a short 17-minute ride later.


Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

Commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Dorothy "Dottie" Metcalf-Lindenburger boarded the orbiter and strapped into their seats on the flight deck.

Mission specialists Stephanie Wilson, Naoko Yamazaki, and Clayton Anderson will ride to space on Discovery's middeck.

With all the astronauts onboard, the closeout crew are working to close Discovery's hatch, pressurize the crew cabin, check for leaks, and then finish up their remaining work inside the White Room prior to leaving the pad.


Credit: NASA TV

Meanwhile, deputy chief astronaut Chris Ferguson is assessing the weather conditions over Kennedy Space Center by flying the Shuttle Training Aircraft and the launch team is not reporting any technical problems that would prevent an on-time liftoff at 6:21 a.m. EDT.

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Countdown

T-9 minutes and holding

Shuttle Discovery and its seven-person crew are nearing the time for launch from Pad 39A on the STS-131 mission to the International Space Station.

The countdown entered the T-9 minute hold at 5:27 a.m. EDT. This is the last built-in hold and is scheduled to last about 45 minutes.

Weather at the Kennedy Space Center is cooperating, with favorable conditions predicted for launch time at 6:21 a.m.

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Countdown

T-9 minutes and counting

The launch director has given Discovery's crew a "go" after a final "go-no go" poll to begin the STS-131 mission at 6:21:25 a.m. EDT.

The call to proceed came minutes after the astronauts' destination, the International Space Station, flew over the Kennedy Space Center.

During the last few minutes remaining in the countdown, the access arm on the rotating service structure will swing away from the shuttle and the vent hood, called a beanie cap, covering the point of the external tank will be lifted up and away. A computer, called a ground launch sequencer, has taken over all the operations of Pad 39A and will be giving the commands that will launch Discovery.

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Flight Day: One

Discovery heads to station after predawn launch

Space shuttle Discovery lit up Florida's "Space Coast" sky about 45 minutes before sunrise Monday with a 6:21:25 a.m. EDT launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The launch began a 13-day flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and the fourth of the last shuttle missions planned before the fleet is retired later this year.


Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

Discovery is scheduled to dock to the space station at 2:44 a.m. CDT 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 payload 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 on 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 compliment 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 radioed before liftoff.


Credit: NASA TV

Poindexter's crew include pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Clay Anderson and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) 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.

Lindenburger is the last of three teachers selected as mission specialists in the 2004 Educator-Astronaut class to fly on the shuttle. The educational activities on the STS-131 mission will focus on robotics and promoting careers in science.

The STS-131 mission is Discovery's 38th flight and the 33rd shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

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Flight Day: One

Flight controllers troubleshooting Ku-Band antenna

Shortly after Discovery reached orbit, the shuttle's Ku-Band antenna did not successfully complete its standard initial activation sequence and is not operational at this time.

The dish-shaped antenna is used for high data rate communications with the ground, including television, and for the radar system that is used during rendezvous with the International Space Station.


Credit: NASA

Discovery can rendezvous and dock with the station and successfully complete all of its planned mission objectives without use of the Ku-Band antenna, if needed.

The Ku-Band is one of several communications systems that can be used for transmission of voice and data to and from the ground. The other systems -- S-band and UHF -- are operating normally.

Discovery also has multiple systems that provide backup capability for the rendezvous radar system.

In addition, the station has a Ku-band system that also is used for transmission of television to the ground and can be used to transmit shuttle television views after docking.

STS-131 flight controllers are continuing to troubleshoot the problem while also formulating plans to conduct the mission without use of the shuttle Ku system if necessary.

The Ku antenna is typically used by the crew and the ground teams during flight day two's inspection using the orbiter boom support system (OBSS). If the Ku still is not working tomorrow, the crew will record all of the inspection video and play it back after docking with the station, using the station's Ku antenna. The crew will monitor the video in real time tomorrow and will note the time stamps of any areas of concern.

The crew began their sleep period at 11:21 a.m. and is scheduled to be awakened at 7:21 p.m. CDT to begin their mission's first full day in orbit.


Flight Day 1 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 1 Photo Gallery

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Two

First full day on-orbit

The seven astronauts on space shuttle Discovery were awakened Monday at 7:21 p.m. CDT to the song "Find Us Faithful," performed by Steve Green.

The wake-up call was played for STS-131 mission specialist Clayton Anderson, who spent 152 days as a member of the International Space Station's Expedition 15 crew in 2007.

"We are all looking forward to a great day in the realm of outer space," said Anderson.
Today, the crew's first full day in orbit, will focus on using Discovery's robotic arm and its orbital boom sensor system (OBSS) extension to inspect the reinforced carbon-carbon leading edges to the shuttle's wings and nose cap.

The heat shield inspection, conducted by STS-131's three first-time fliers, pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Naoko Yamazaki and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, as well as commander Alan Poindexter and mission specialist Stephanie Wilson, is expected to take longer than scheduled pre-flight due to the failure of Discovery's Ku-Band antenna, which was discovered shortly after the shuttle reached orbit. Instead of immediately transmitting the imagery they collect to the ground, the astronauts will record the data and downlink it to Mission Control after Wednesday's docking with the space station.

As the inspections are underway, spacewalkers Anderson and Rick Mastracchio will ready the spacesuits they'll wear for three planned spacewalks outside the ISS.

Preparations to rendezvous and dock with the station will occupy the remainder of the crew's day.

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Flight Day: Two

Crew completes inspection

Discovery's astronauts used much of their workday today checking out the shuttle's thermal protection system and preparing for their docking early Wednesday with the International Space Station.

Working in three-person teams, crew members used the shuttle's robotic arm and its orbiter boom sensor system extension to look at the reinforced carbon-carbon on Discovery's nose and wing leading edges, and some of its heat-resistant tiles.

Because Discovery's Ku-Band antenna system is not working, they recorded their survey on tape. The data will be transmitted to Mission Control using the station's Ku-Band system once the two spacecraft are joined on Wednesday.

The crew went to sleep at 11:21 a.m. CDT and will awaken at 7:21 p.m. to begin Flight Day 3, docking day.


Flight Day 2 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 2 Photo Gallery

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Flight Day: Two

Debris spotted separating from Discovery's tail

Mission managers reviewing the long-range tracking imagery from Discovery's launch on Monday have noticed what appears to be something -- perhaps a thermal protection tile -- falling off the rudder speed brake's trailing edge on the port (left) side of the shuttle's vertical stabilizer.

Video stills show a change in the color and contrast on the brake panel, as well as a very obvious object moving away from the vehicle.


Credit: NASA

"It appears as though something comes off the trailing edge of that port side rudder speed brake panel," said mission management team chair LeRoy Cain on Tuesday, adding that the separation occurs between 42 and 43 seconds into flight, "somewhere in the area of Mach 1."

"It will be an item of interest for us as we go forward," said Cain.

Discovery's crew may have captured imagery of the area during their heat shield inspections and the space station crew will capture photographs of the vertical stabilizer during the shuttle's approach on Wednesday morning.

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Flight Day: Three

Docking day

Discovery's crew are just hours from joining the Expedition 23 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as they work toward an early Wednesday morning docking with the orbiting laboratory.

The shuttle crew rose at 7:21 p.m. CDT Tuesday to the song "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin, played for pilot Jim Dutton, who will help guide Discovery to the station's Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 at 2:44 a.m. Wednesday.

"It's just a great day to be out in space and we are looking forward to joining up with the International Space Station," radioed Dutton.
At midnight, STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter and Dutton will fire Discovery's jets to refine their approach to the ISS. Stephanie Wilson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger, Clay Anderson and Naoko Yamazaki, all mission specialists, will support them on the flight deck.

The crew will perform the rendezvous and docking without the normal use of radar because of Discovery's Ku-Band antenna failure.

At 1:42 a.m., after Discovery arrives at a point 600 feet directly below the station, Poindexter will command the shuttle to slowly rotate so that its underside is facing the station, and Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineer Soichi Noguchi will photo-document the shuttle's heat shield tiles. That imagery will be added to the video taken on flight day 2 and sent to the ground for study by specialists looking for any damage that may have occurred during Discovery's climb to orbit.

Once docked and leak checks are completed, the hatches between the vehicles are scheduled to open at 4:41 a.m. Wednesday to begin joint operations.

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Flight Day: Three

Discovery does a back flip

At 1:48 a.m. CDT, Discovery began an eight minute rendezvous pitch maneuver (RPM), a slow backflip that enabled International Space Station crew members Oleg Kotov and T.J. Creamer to capture high resolution photographs of the shuttle's heat shield.
"We got some great RPM shots. You guys are looking bea-ut-iful," radioed flight engineer Soichi Noguchi from aboard the station.

"As are you guys, Soichi! Thanks," replied Discovery's pilot Jim Dutton.


Credit: NASA TV

The digital pictures will be transmitted to Mission Control for review by imagery specialists and managers to help assess and validate the integrity of Discovery's thermal protection system.

With commander Alan Poindexter at the helm, Discovery will dock to the space station at 2:44:50 a.m.


Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Three

Discovery docks at the space station

STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter shuttle Discovery to a docking with the International Space Station's Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 at 2:44 a.m. CDT. At the time they berthed, the two spacecraft were flying 215 miles over the Caribbean sea near Caracas, Venezuela.


Credit: NASA TV

Poindexter and his crew completed the rendezvous operation without the failed shuttle Ku-band radar, relying instead on an array of other navigation tools to precisely track the station as they approached. The last such station docking without radar was during Discovery's STS-92 mission ten years ago.

Discovery’s seven-person crew will join the six-person Expedition 23 crew for more than a week of work together.


Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Three

Crews open shuttle, station hatches

Discovery and its seven-member crew took up temporary residence at the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednedsay following a smooth rendezvous and docking at 2:44 a.m. CDT.

After procedural leak checks to ensure a solid mate between the two vehicles -- which orbit the Earth with a combined mass of more than one million pounds -- the hatches were opened at 4:11 a.m. and the record-tying joint crew of 13 began at least eight days of work.


Credit: NASA TV

A couple of "firsts" occurred with hatch opening: the first time four women have been aboard the same spacecraft during a mission, and the first time two Japanese astronauts have been aboard the space station simultaneously -- STS-131 mission specialist Naoko Yamazaki and fellow Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who is a member of the station's Expedition 23 crew.

Imagery gathered as Discovery approached the station along with the data collected Monday and Tuesday by the shuttle crew began being sent down to Mission Control for analysis via the station's Ku-Band system to ensure the shuttle's heat shield is safe for re-entry April 18.

The crews went to bed about 11 this morning and will be awakened at 7:21 tonight.


Flight Day 3 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 3 Photo Gallery

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Flight Day: Four

Let the transfers begin

Discovery's crew is ready to lift the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module from the shuttle's payload bay, mate it to the International Space Station's (ISS) Harmony module, and begin unpacking the 21-foot-long, 15-foot-wide moving van.

Leonardo is delivering eight tons of cargo, including four experiment racks and the last crew quarters to be delivered to the station. This is Leonardo's final round-trip to the station. When it returns on STS-133 it will remain as an extra room.

The STS-131 crew began their day at 7:21 p.m. CDT to a "A Pigeon and a Boy" by Joe Hisaishi, played for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki.

"Looking forward to another great day of flight day 4," radioed Yamazaki.
On this, the first full day of joint docked operations the astronauts will unberth Leonardo and maneuver it into place for installation on Harmony's nadir, or Earth-facing, port. Mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Yamazaki will operate the station's robotic arm to perform that operation.

Once it's berthed, mission specialist Clay Anderson and Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi will prepare Leonardo's hatch for opening, presently planned for 7:01 a.m. Thursday.

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Flight Day: Four

Moving van module moved

Mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki used the space station's robotic arm to lift the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) from Discovery's payload bay at 10:21 p.m. CDT Wednesday and attached it to the nadir, or Earth-facing, side of the Harmony node at 11:24 p.m.


Credit: NASA TV

It will take several hours for mission specialist Clay Anderson and Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi to prepare Leonardo's hatch for opening, expected to occur at 7:01 a.m.

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Flight Day: Four

Hatches opened between Leonardo, Harmony

After several hours working through procedures and several minutes of troubleshooting, the hatches were opened between the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) and the International Space Station's Harmony node at 6:58 a.m. CDT on Thursday.


Credit: NASA TV

STS-131 mission specialist Clayton Anderson and Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi worked through their checklists to open Leonardo since it was attached to the station at 11:24 p.m. on Wednesday. Their work proceeded smoothly until the very last step, opening the hatch.

"There's a geared section along the hatch there and it is only getting about two-thirds of the way through that gearing before it jams," reported Anderson to Mission Control.
A similar problem was experienced the last time that Leonardo flew on STS-128 in Sep. 2009.
"In the past, we have found that if we wait just a couple of more minutes for equalization... extra force is not needed," advised capcom Stan Love.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Anderson reported success.
"Good news, we got the hatch open," he said.

"Excellent," replied Love, "thank you for very much for that report."

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Flight Day: Four

Unloading Leonardo, preparing for spacewalk

It was moving day aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) was relocated from Discovery's payload bay to Harmony's Earth-facing port at 11:24 p.m. CDT on Wednesday.

The Italian-built module's more than 17,000 pounds of cargo includes four experiment racks along with the final crew quarters to be added to the station.


Credit: NASA

This is the final round-trip to the station for the 21-foot long, 15-foot diameter Leonardo. Once back on Earth, the module will be modified with increased exterior shielding for the STS-133 mission, when it will be left on the station as a permanent module.

Crew members continued to transfer items from Discovery's middeck to the station and configured the Quest airlock for the first of mission's three planned spacewalks, scheduled to begin Friday at about 12:40 a.m. Mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson will serve as the spacewalk team for all three.

On Thursday morning, Discovery pilot Jim Dutton joined Mastracchio and Anderson to review procedures for the first outing. Anderson and Mastracchio ended their day by setting up to camp in Quest.

They will spend the night in the airlock, sealed off from the rest of the station, at a reduced atmospheric pressure to purge nitrogen from their bloodstreams as a measure against suffering from the bends, or decompression sickness, during the spacewalk.

Earlier today, STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter, Mastracchio and Stephanie Wilson discussed the mission with the Tom Joyner Radio Show in Dallas, WVIT-TV in Hartford, Conn., and Fox News Radio. Mastracchio is from Connecticut.

The crew went to bed about noon and will be awakened by Mission Control at 7:51 p.m. Thursday.


Flight Day 4 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 4 Photo Gallery

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Flight Day: Five

Fifth day, first spacewalk

Mission specialists Clayton Anderson and Rick Mastracchio will leave the Quest airlock tonight for the mission's first spacewalk to prepare a new ammonia tank and gyro assembly for the International Space Station and to retrieve a science experiment from the station's porch, the Japanese Kibo laboratory's exposed facility.

Waking for Flight Day 5 at 7:51 p.m. CDT, the astronauts' song for the day was "Defying Gravity," from the musical "Wicked," sung by Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth, and played for mission specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who will be choreographing Anderson's and Mastracchio's excursion as the intravehicular officer, or IVA.

"I have wished upon a star and I looked up through the clouds that are far behind me, and I just want to say thanks to all who helped me along the way," radioed Metcalf-Lindenburger.

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. Credit: NASA

The 6.5 hour spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 12:41 a.m.

During the spacewalk, space shuttle Discovery pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialist Stephanie Wilson will use the station's robotic arm to remove the new ammonia tank from the orbiter's payload bay.

While the others are busy with the extravehicular activity, or EVA, commander Alan Poindexter and mission specialist Naoko Yamazaki, along with the station's Expedition 23 crew, will continue transferring supplies from the shuttle to the station.

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Flight Day: Five

First spacewalk begins

Mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson began the first of STS-131's three planned spacewalks at 12:31 a.m. CDT on Friday, as they both configured their spacesuits to operate on battery power and the shuttle-station complex flew 216 miles over the Atlantic ocean.
"Today I am looking forward to seeing you do EVA 1 as we practiced," radioed spacewalk coordinator Dorothy "Dottie" Metcalf-Lindenburger from inside Discovery to Mastracchio and Anderson. "Remember, space is like chocolate, go get a big bite."
Mastracchio, the mission's lead spacewalker, is wearing a spacesuit marked with red stripes, while Anderson's suit is all-white.


Credit: NASA TV

Most of the spacewalkers' tasks will center around getting a new ammonia tank assembly delivered by Discovery into place on the starboard side of the station's truss and getting a spent ammonia tank assembly into the shuttle's cargo bay for its return to Earth.

Because of the location of the old starboard ammonia tank assembly, the space station's robotic arm cannot reach it from the same location that it must be in to remove the new ammonia tank assembly from the Discovery's payload bay. That means unpacking the new assembly, storing it, a base change for the robotic arm, removing the old assembly, storing it, installing the new assembly, another base change for the arm and then packing the old assembly into the cargo bay.

All that work will take three spacewalks to accomplish, with some time here and there for get-ahead work.

The first leg of the ammonia tank assembly swap starts tonight in Discovery's payload bay. After picking up a handle that the space station robotic arm will use to grasp the new tank, Mastracchio will move to the cargo bay and install it on the new tank then begin releasing the four bolts that hold it in place during its journey to the station.

Anderson, meanwhile, will move to the station's starboard truss segment and disconnect the old tank's four ammonia and nitrogen lines before meeting Mastracchio in the cargo bay to do the same on the new tank.

Once the lines are disconnected and the bolts released, Anderson and Mastracchio will work together to lift the new tank out of the cargo bay and into position for STS-131 pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialist Stephanie Wilson to grasp and fly it using the station's robotic arm to the external stowage platform 2 on the Quest airlock.

While the new tank assembly makes its way there, Anderson will clean up their work area while Mastracchio will move to the Kibo laboratory's porch -- the Japanese Experiment Module's exposed facility -- to retrieve the Micro-Particles Capture/Space Environment Exposure Device (MPAC/SEED) experiment and temporarily stow it outside of the airlock -- he will move it inside later in the spacewalk.

They will meet the robotic arm back at the external stowage platform to install another handle on the new ammonia tank assembly, while it is still in the grasp of the arm. This second handle will be used to attach the assembly to a temporary storage location on the robotic arm's mobile transporter, where it will wait for installation on the second spacewalk of the mission.

Once that handle is installed, Dutton and Wilson will use the station robotic arm to fly the tank assembly to the storage location, and the spacewalkers will move on to other tasks.

The first of the tasks will be the replacement of a rate gyro assembly on the center section of the station's truss. While moving the experiment inside of the airlock, Mastracchio will retrieve a new rate gyro assembly, then move to the center of the truss, where Anderson will have removed from inside the truss, two of the four bolts holding the old assembly in place.

When Mastracchio arrives at the truss segment, he will open insulation protecting the assembly, disconnect two power cables and release the final two bolts. He will then remove the old assembly and slide the new one into place, engaging the first two bolts, connecting the power cables and then engaging the last two bolts.

The spacewalk is scheduled to take 6.5 hours.

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Flight Day: Five

First spacewalk ends

Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson, back inside Quest, began re-pressurizing the airlock at 6:58 a.m. CDT, marking the end the first of STS-131's three planned spacewalks six hours and 27 minutes after it began.
"Alright gentlemen, I imagine you are ready to come back in," Jim Dutton radioed the two spacewalkers from the other side of the airlock hatch.
Completing all that they set out to do and then some, Mastracchio and Anderson configured an old ammonia tank assembly for removal, prepared a new assembly for installation and replaced a rate gyro assembly, part of the station’s navigation system, on the orbiting lab's 'backbone' truss.

They also accomplished several "get-ahead" tasks, removing 11 out of 12 p-clamps slated for a future spacewalk.


Credit: NASA TV

Today's spacewalk was the 141st in support of station assembly and maintenance and the fourth for both astronauts. Mastracchio now has worked for one day and 40 minutes outside in the vaccuum of space, while Anderson is just two minutes shy of Mastracchio's total.

The spacewalk marked the 113th out of the station's airlocks and the 234th by U.S. astronauts in history.

To put the spacewalk's six hours and 27 minutes into perspective, it would take NASA's first seven extravehicular activities (EVAs) during the mid-1960s Gemini program to match the time spent outside the ISS today.


Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Five

Transfers continue as first spacewalk is completed

While spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson worked outside the International Space Station for six hours and 27 minutes, crew members inside the orbiting laboratory continued transferring equipment and supplies between Discovery and the outpost.

The multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo, which was moved from the shuttle's payload bay and attached to the station on Thursday, brought equipment, supplies and racks to the station, while additional cargo was carried on Discovery’s middeck.

The crews will be moving approximately 7.6 tons to the station. As of Thursday evening, the astronauts had moved more than half of the equipment and supplies from the middeck but had only completed 11 percent of the total transfer requirement.

Leonardo will bring home scientific experiments, equipment and trash from the station after it is returned to the orbiter later in the mission.

Discovery's astronauts began their sleep period at 12:20 p.m. CDT and will wake at 8:21 p.m. Friday.


Flight Day 5 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Six

A new day

Upon waking, the seven astronauts onboard Discovery and the six-member International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 23 crew learned from Mission Control that the STS-131 mission will be extended by one day to allow for an inspection of the shuttle's heat shield prior to Discovery undocking.

The extension, which now sets up the shuttle for a landing in Florida on April 19 at about 7:54 a.m. CDT, allows the crew the time needed to conduct the nominal "late inspection" for micro-meteoroid damage and then transmit the data they collect using the station's Ku-Band antenna system.

Discovery's Ku-Band antenna failed earlier in the mission.

This is the second time a thermal protection system inspection has been done while the shuttle was still docked to the station. The first was during STS-123 in March 2008, when Endeavour left its orbiter boom sensor system -- the extension to the shuttle's robotic arm used to conduct the survey -- mounted to the station.

Late inspections aside, Mission Control today cleared Discovery's heat shield for reentry after analyzing a few areas that sustained minor damage during ascent.


Credit: NASA

The STS-131 astronauts woke at 8:21 p.m. Friday to the song "We Weren't Born to Follow" by Bon Jovi, played for mission specialist Rick Mastracchio, who will be preparing for his fifth spacewalk, the second for the mission, planned for early Sunday.

"Great song," radioed Mastracchio to Mission Control. "We're having a great mission up here."
The two crews will continue today unpacking the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module.

Mission specialist and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki will be moving the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF), which will provide cameras, multi-spectral and hyperspectral scanners, camcorders and other instruments to capture Earth imagery through the Destiny lab's science window.

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Flight Day: Six

(Un)packing and prepping

Supply transfers, spacewalk preparations, and interviews from orbit filled much of the STS-131 crew's sixth flight day.

The multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo, berthed to the station's Harmony node, was the source of much of the material moved. Major items launched in the module included 16 equipment racks, including four devoted to experiments.

The astronauts, under the direction of "loadmaster" and Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, moved two of the refrigerator-size racks, the Express Rack 7 (ER7) and the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF), into the station. The earlier is designed to host a variety of modular experiments, while the latter will focus on Earth, literally, by enabling observations through the Destiny lab's science quality window.

Meanwhile, spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson configured tools for their second spacewalk, set to begin shortly after 1 a.m. CDT Sunday, before meeting with their fellow crew members for a procedures review.

The spacewalkers will campout in the Quest airlock tonight, sleeping in a lower air pressure environment to reduce the nitrogen content of their blood, a measure to avoid decompression sickness.

Earlier in the day, Mastracchio and Anderson joined fellow mission specialist Stephanie Wilson to talk with Nebraska Public Radio, CBS News and KETV-TV in Omaha.


Media and student interviews. Credit: NASA TV

Discovery commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton and mission Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger also fielded questions from orbit, talking with students hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

The crew retired for the day at about noon and will be awakened at 8:21 p.m. Saturday.


Flight Day 6 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Seven

Seventh day, second spacewalk

Mission specialists Clay Anderson and Rick Mastracchio have begun final preparations for their second spacewalk of the STS-131 mission.

Their outing was planned to start at 1:16 a.m. CDT, but may begin earlier as the spacewalkers are working ahead of schedule.

Mastracchio and Anderson will remove a spent ammonia tank from the station's starboard truss and replace it with the new 1,700-pound, refrigerator-size tank they removed from Discovery's payload bay on Friday. The ammonia is used for the station's cooling system.

Discovery's crew was awakened at 8:26 p.m. CDT to "Stairway to the Stars" by Ella Fitzgerald, played for Stephanie Wilson, who will be operating the station's robotic arm to support today's spacewalk.

"It certainly is a stairway to the stars up here," radioed Wilson. "We're having a great time and we're looking forward to another great day and another great EVA."
Mission specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger will again choreograph the spacewalk, serving as the intravehicular officer. Commander Alan Poindexter and pilot Jim Dutton will also assist with the planned 6.5 hour spacewalk.


Stephanie Wilson and Jim Dutton. Credit: NASA

Mission specialist Naoko Yamazaki, together with the ISS Expedition 23 crew, will continue with the transfer of supplies from the shuttle to the station. The crew has transferred 72 percent of the items on the shuttle's middeck and 33 percent in the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module.

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Flight Day: Seven

Second spacewalk begins

Having worked quickly through their spacewalk preparations, Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson began their second extravehicular acvitity (EVA) of the STS-131 mission almost an hour early at 12:30 a.m. CDT on Sunday as the space shuttle Discovery and International Space Station (ISS) orbited 219 miles above Australia.

Mastracchio, the mission's lead spacewalker, is wearing a spacesuit marked with red stripes, while Anderson's suit is all-white.

Continuing the work they began during the mission's first spacewalk to swap out a massive coolant tank for a new one, Mastraccio and Anderson will focus on installing the fully-charged ammonia coolant tank on the starboard, or right-side of the station's truss before preparing the depleted tank for its return to Earth.

Because of the location of the old ammonia tank assembly, the station's robotic arm could not reach it from the same location that it had to be in to remove the new tank from space shuttle Discovery's payload bay on Friday. That meant that the spacewalkers had to unpack and store the new assembly, then come back inside the station while the Canadian-built robotic arm was repositioned.

Today, they will remove the old assembly, temporarily stow it, and then install the new tank in its place. During a third spacewalk later this week, Mastracchio and Anderson will pack the old assembly into shuttle's cargo bay for its return to Earth.

Mastracchio and Anderson will begin their work today at the site of the spent ammonia tank assembly on the first segment of the station's starboard truss. Anderson will disconnect two electrical cables, then he and Mastracchio will work together to release the four bolts holding the assembly in place, lift it off of the truss and hand it to the station's robotic arm being driven by mission specialist Stephanie Wilson and pilot Jim Dutton.

Mastracchio will then move a crew and equipment translation aid cart -- or CETA cart -- into place to provide temporary storage for the old ammonia tank assembly. When the tank arrives via robotic arm at the CETA cart, the spacewalkers will tie it to the cart with six tethers.

That will then free the robotic arm for the installation of the new tank assembly. While Wilson and Dutton use the arm to retrieve the new assembly from the mobile transporter system, Mastracchio and Anderson will take advantage of the time by installing two radiator grapple fixture stowage beams on the first port segment of the station's truss. These beams will be used temporarily to store handles that would be necessary if a radiator ever needed to be replaced.

By the time they are done with that, the new assembly should be in place. Mastracchio will first remove the handle that allowed it to be stored on the mobile transporter. Then he and Anderson will work together to install the tank, engaging four bolts and connecting six cables. Once Wilson and Dutton are able to release the arm's hold, the spacewalkers will be able to remove the handle used to grip the assembly.

The next step for the spacewalkers will be to go back to the CETA cart, where Mastracchio will untie the old tank and allow the robotic arm to grasp it. Then Anderson will install another handle on it, which will allow the assembly to be stored on the mobile transporter until the final spacewalk, just as the new assembly was stored between the first and second spacewalks.

The final tasks of this spacewalk call for Mastracchio and Anderson to return to the external stowage platform 2 by the Quest airlock and retrieve two debris shields left there during STS-129.

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Flight Day: Seven

Second spacewalk ends

Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson began re-pressurizing the Quest airlock at 7:56 a.m. CDT Sunday, ending a seven hour, 26 minute extravehicular activity (EVA) outside the International Space Station (ISS), the second of three planned for STS-131.

The two mission specialists, assisted by Stephanie Wilson and Jim Dutton operating the station's Canadian-built robotic arm and Dottie Metcalf Lindenburger as their choreographer or intravehicular officer (IVA), installed a new, fully-charged ammonia tank on the station's starboard truss but not without running into problems aligning the four bolts that held the assembly in place.


Credit: NASA TV

Because of a troublesome bolt, the spacewalkers fell behind their timeline and were only able to connect a pair of electrical cables to the tank, deferring the attachment of ammonia transfer and nitrogen pressurization lines to the mission's third spacewalk.

Flight controllers were able to verify that that electrical connections Mastracchio and Anderson did complete were working.

Due to the risk of the spacewalkers' suits becoming contaminated by ammonia were they to run into problems connecting the new tank's fluid lines, a situation that would require a lengthy decontamination process, Mastracchio and Anderson were told to return inside.

As a result of the delay, Mastracchio and Anderson were also unable to retrieve two micrometeoroid debris shields from outside the Quest airlock for return to Earth.

This was the 235th spacewalk conducted by U.S. astronauts and the fifth for both Mastracchio and Anderson. It was the 142nd in support of ISS assembly and maintenance, totaling 887 hours and nine minutes. It was also the 114th spacewalk based out of the station's airlocks, totaling 699 hours and 54 minutes.

Mastracchio's five spacewalks now give him a career total of 32 hours and six minutes on EVA. Anderson has logged just two minutes less.


Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Seven

A high definition look at life in orbit

Despite their failed Ku-Band antenna aboard space shuttle Discovery, the STS-131 crew has been able to share high definition highlights from their time on the International Space Station using the orbiting laboratory's Ku-Band system.

Flight Day 7 HD Highlights. Credit: NASA TV


Flight Day 7 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Eight

Time off for the holiday

Discovery's STS-131 crew will enjoy some well-deserved time off today coinciding with two historic space anniversaries, then spend their afternoon transferring equipment from the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo and preparing for the third and final spacewalk of their mission.

The seven astronauts were awakened at 8:51 p.m. CDT Sunday with the song "Because We Believe," by Andrea Bocelli for commander Alan Poindexter.

"It's another great day to be on orbit at the International Space Station," said Poindexter. "We're looking forward to another great day of teamwork with the ISS crew and getting a lot of transfers complete."
April 12 marks Cosmonautics Day, the celebration of the the first manned spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin on the Soviet Union's Vostok 1 in 1961.

Monday is also the 29th anniversary of the first launch of the United States' space shuttle program.

Discovery's STS-131 mission is scheduled to be the last shuttle to be in space on the STS-1 anniversary. NASA plans to retire the orbiters later this year.

"Tomorrow is a good day in general to reflect on the fact that we have a lot of amazing things going on in space flight now," said space station flight director Ed Van Cise during a televised interview on Sunday. "We have four women in space for the first time ever, we have two Japanese in space for the first time ever and we have three Russians living long term on space station for the first time, so there are a lot of firsts going on in space right now."

"Tomorrow's going to be a chance to commemorate all those different things."

To mark the Japanese milestone, mission specialist Naoko Yamazaki and Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Nooguchi will take time to answer questions at 5:41 a.m. from students in Japan, as well as former JAXA astronaut Mamoru Mohri and other dignitaries.

At 10:36 a.m., Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger will talk about the flight during interviews with ABC World News, MSNBC, Fox News and KUSA-TV in Denver.


Crew members gather together for a meal. Credit: NASA

Spacewalkers Clayton Anderson and Rick Mastracchio will end their day reviewing the timeline for Tuesday's extravehicular activity (EVA) and then spend the night in the Quest airlock, sealed off from the rest of the station, at a reduced atmospheric pressure.

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Flight Day: Eight

Moving in and camping out

Following a morning off, Discovery's STS-131 crew got back to work moving equipment and supplies to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and preparing for Tuesday's early morning spacewalk, the third and last planned for their mission.

Mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson configured their tools in the station's Quest airlock. After a review of spacewalk procedures with other crew members, they entered the airlock to spend the night at a reduced 10.2 psi air pressure. That campout is aimed at reducing the nitrogen in their blood to avoid decompression sickness, or the bends.

Meanwhile, their fellow space shuttle crewmates, joined their station counterparts, continued the transfer of equipment and supplies, much of it from the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo. That work went well and is ahead of schedule.

Shuttle and station crew members also took time to field calls from the Earth below. First, at 2:45 a.m. Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke with the Expedition 23 crew, including commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineers Aleksandr Skvortsov and Mikhail Korniyenko, on their country's Cosmonautics Day.

Astronauts Naoko Yamazaki and Soichi Noguchi chatted at 5:41 a.m. with Japanese students, fellow JAXA astronaut Mamoru Mohri and other dignitaries, including Japan's minister of space policy, who had gathered in Tokyo. And at 10:36 a.m., shortly before their bed time, Discovery commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton, and mission specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Stephanie Wilson spoke with ABC World News, MSNBC, Fox News and KUSA-TV in Denver.


Flight Day 8 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Nine

Ninth day, final spacewalk

The crew of space shuttle Discovery awoke Monday evening at 9:21 CDT to "Galileo by Indigo Girls for STS-131 mission specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.
"I'd like to say thank you to my parents who gave me such an appreciation for math and science and helped make sure that I got to see what Galileo taught us to look up at," radioed Metcalf-Lindenburger, who will again serve as the choreographer for the mission's third and final spacewalk.
The spacewalk, which was replanned after Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson encountered difficulties on Sunday bolting down an ammonia coolant tank, is scheduled to begin at 2:11 a.m. Tuesday and last 6.5 hours.

The spacewalkers' activities include finishing the replacement of the massive tank assembly, retrieving micrometeoroid shields from the outside of the Quest airlock and retrieving a light-weight adapter plate assembly.

Meanwhile, transfer activities will continue inside the station. With about three-quarters of the science rack, equipment, food and supply moves complete, mission specialist and loadmaster Naoko Yamazaki and her fellow crewmates will work to get all the items into their final locations.

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Flight Day: Nine

Third and final spacewalk begins

Working about an hour ahead in their spacewalk preparations, Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson began the third and final planned extravehicular activity (EVA) of the STS-131 mission at 1:14 a.m. CDT Tuesday as the space shuttle Discovery and International Space Station (ISS) orbited 218 miles above Australia.

Mastracchio, the mission's lead spacewalker, is wearing a spacesuit marked with red stripes, while Anderson's suit is all-white.


Credit: NASA TV

The 6.5-hour EVA required re-planning after the spacewalkers ran into some difficulties during Sunday's spacewalk trying to bolt down a new ammonia tank assembly on the starboard, or right, side of the station's truss.

Masstracchio's first task then will be to connect fluid transfer lines to the new, fully-charged coolant tank, an activity that was deferred from the mission's second spacewalk after the spacewalkers ran out of time.

Anderson, meanwhile, will work to retrieve micro-meteoroid shields leftover from the STS-129 mission from outside the Quest airlock.

Once the replacement tank is hooked in to the station's systems and the debris shields are stowed in the airlock, the two spacewalkers will then move on to secure the spent ammonia tank inside Discovery's cargo bay.

Robotic arm operators Stephanie Wilson, James Dutton and Soichi Noguchi will activate Canadarm2, the station's arm, and grapple the old ammonia tank that was temporarily stored on the station's mobile base system. They will move the depleted tank into the shuttle's bay so that Mastracchio and Anderson can bolt it onto a logistics carrier for its return to Earth.

Mastracchio will then work prepare an antenna for installation during a future shuttle mission while Anderson rides the station's arm to collect an experiment platform from the end of the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory for return to Earth.

Finally, Mastracchio will attempt tightening bolts on a grapple fixture beam on the port-side radiator, which was seen wobbling after its installation during an earlier EVA. If the bolts cannot be tightened, the spacewalkers will be asked to return it to the airlock for further troubleshooting.

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Flight Day: Nine

Third and final spacewalk ends

Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson completed the third and final planned extravehicular activity (EVA) of the STS-131 mission at 7:38 a.m. CDT Tuesday, six hours and 24 minutes after they began.
"Very good job to the conclusion of EVA-3," radioed Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who coordinated all three spacewalks from inside Discovery. "It's been awesome working with you guys, this is a really nice job."

"Congratulations to all of you on the completion of three challenging but wonderfully executed EVAs," added capcom Stan Love from Mission Control. "You guys are EVA super heroes."


Credit: NASA TV

Having again encountered difficulties securing an ammonia tank by its four bolts, this time while trying to stow the spent, 1,200-pound assembly in Discovery's payload bay for its return to Earth, the two spacewalkers were delayed in their timeline and faced reorganizing their planned activities, having to forgo several in the interest in time.

Flight controllers decided to defer Anderson from retrieving a light-weight experiment adapter plate from the outside of the European Space Agency's Columbus lab, and postponed a get-ahead task to tighten the radiator grapple fixture stowage beams on the station's port, or left, side truss.

Instead controllers asked Anderson to perform two tasks that had been slated for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132 mission next month, relocating a portable foot restraint and preparing cables on the Zenith 1 truss for a spare space-to-ground Ku-Band antenna.

Mastracchio meanwhile carried a grapple bar from the old ammonia tank assembly to the new one, where he had started his activities on this spacewalk by connecting fluid transfer lines to the 1,800-pound, fully-recharged tank.

Flight controllers however, reported being unable to fully activate the new assembly due to a stuck nitrogen supply valve. The nitrogen provides pressure to the lines that flow ammonia coolant about the station's exterior. Engineers on the ground were continuing to analyze the problem as the spacewalk came to an end.

During the course of the EVA, Anderson noted a slight cut on his left spacesuit glove, but as it did not penetrate the outer Vectran layer, Mission Control deemed it not a concern.

This was the final STS-131 spacewalk, the 236th conducted by U.S. astronauts, and the sixth for both Mastracchio and Anderson. It was the 143rd in support of International Space Station (ISS) assembly and maintenance, totaling 893 hours and 33 minutes, and the 115th spacewalk based out of the station's airlocks, totaling 706 hours and 18 minutes.

Mastracchio now has a career total EVA time of 38 hours and 30 minutes, while Anderson is just two minutes shy of the same. The pair now ranks 21st and 22nd on the list of cumulative spacewalk time.

The spacewalk, which brought STS-131's total EVA time to 20 hours and 16 minutes, was also the last for Discovery. The orbiter's final mission, which is also the last for the space shuttle program, does not include a spacewalk as currently planned.

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Flight Day: Nine

Flight Day (High Definition) Highlights


Flight Day 9 HD Highlights. Credit: NASA TV


Flight Day 9 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Ten

Final transfers on tap

The astronauts and cosmonauts on space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station will wrap up the transfer of equipment and science experiments between the two vehicles, join for the traditional crew news conference with reporters at the NASA centers and in Russia and take some time off to enjoy the view.

At 10:21 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, the STS-131 crew members woke to "Miracle of Flight" by Mike Hyden, played for Clayton Anderson.

"Having been up here a couple of times now, it truly is a miracle," radioed Anderson. "From the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk to the space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station, I don't think there is a better phrase to describe any of this."
Anderson will join with his six fellow Discovery astronauts and the six-member Expedition 23 crew for 40-minute conference at 6:26 a.m. Wednesday with news media in the U.S., Russia and Japan.


Credit: NASA TV

At 12:06 p.m., STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter and mission specialists Anderson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Stephanie Wilson will talk with Gibsonville, North Carolina, high school students from Eastern Guilford High School and with third and fourth graders from the school district.

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Flight Day: Ten

Fourth spacewalk, mission extension under review

NASA is considering adding an extra day and a fourth spacewalk to the STS-131 mission to replace a nitrogen tank assembly with a stuck valve that is threatening to shutdown half of the International Space Station's (ISS) systems.

Stuck in the closed position since shuttle Discovery's fourth flight day but unknown to flight controllers until Tuesday (Flight Day 9) when they attempted to command it back open following the successful replacement of its associated ammonia tank assembly, the valve is needed to regulate the flow of coolant through half of the station's systems.


Credit: NASA

Although not an immediate threat to the station's crew, a functioning coolant system is needed before the ISS is subjected to increased heating as a result of its changing orientation in respect to the Sun. This high "beta angle" period is expected to begin around April 15.

Without a fix, NASA would need to shut down that side of the coolant system ("loop A") before it fails, which would result in the station losing use of the systems serviced by it, including the Canadian-built robotic arm.

NASA is still attempting to open the valve through ground controlling, but should those efforts be unsuccessful, their "last option" will be to have spacewalkers replace the faulty nitrogen tank with one of two new ones already aboard the station.

"Folks are continuing to troubleshoot that problem on the ground to see if there is other things we can try," explained lead station flight director Ron Spencer. "In the meantime, we are also pursuing work on EVA [spacewalk] options to possibly replace the nitrogen tank assembly."

If an extravehicular activity (EVA) is deemed necessary, then mission managers will decide between sending STS-131 spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson out for a fourth spacewalk, or wait until after Discovery leaves and have the station crew perform the repair.

Although tasking the shuttle crew with the spacewalk raises fatigue concerns -- their mission was already extended a day as a result of a failed Ku-Band communication antenna requiring they perform "late inspections" of their heat shield while still docked to the station -- the trade-off is their expertise.

"This task has a lot of similarities associated with the ammonia tank replacement," Spencer commented, referencing the primary activity of Mastracchio's and Anderson's three completed spacewalks. "The EVA crew on this mission are familiar with the fluid connections, the electrical connections and handling a large assembly in space."

"So there is an experience base there that we may choose to take advantage of if EVA is necessary," he added.

A decision is needed by Thursday for NASA to reserve the option of having the shuttle crew perform the spacewalk.

"The earlier the decision the better," said Spencer. "But it is no later than tomorrow."


Flight Day 10 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 10 Photo Gallery

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Eleven

Extra EVA deferred, crew to complete transfers

The astronauts on space shuttle Discovery awoke for their eleventh flight day at 11:21 p.m. CDT Wednesday to learn that while they slept, mission managers decided not to have them do a fourth spacewalk to replace a nitrogen tank with a stuck valve that has caused problems with the International Space Station's (ISS) exterior coolant system.
"We have some big picture words for you on the plan this morning," radioed capcom Megan McArthur from Mission Control. "The decision has been made to not perform a fourth EVA on this mission. Analysis shows that the current [configuration] is okay for an extended period."

STS-131 mission commander Alan Poindexter replied, "We appreciate all the extra effort that went into quickly looking at that option and we're glad that the station will be fine without the extra EVA here for a little bit. Thanks a lot!"

With the extra extravehicular activity (EVA) deferred to at least after Discovery lands on Monday (as the coolant system has been deemed stable enough to last at least a month), the seven-member STS-131 crew will re-focus on the original plan for their day, unloading the last transfer items in the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module and then closing the hatches between it and the station's Harmony node in preparation for its return to the shuttle's payload bay.

Overseeing that activity will be "loadmaster" Naoko Yamazaki, who's been supervising the unloading and loading for this mission.

"Looking forward to a great Flight Day 11," Yamazaki said, after the wake-up song, "The Earth in the Color of Lapis Lazuli" by Seiko Matsuda was played for her.
At 7:41 a.m., Yamazaki and Stephanie Wilson will use the station's robotic arm to move Leonardo back into the Discovery's cargo bay. This is the seventh time Leonardo has carried supplies to the station. The next time it returns with the STS-133 crew in September it will remain berthed to the station.

Today is the birthday for two space station crew members: Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi is now 45 and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko is 50.

"Of course, just having a birthday on orbit is a big deal," remarked Kornienko, "but having a twin birthday, that's even better. That's why today, we're going to try to work and celebrate at the same time and hopefully we are going to have a very nice celebration tonight on orbit."

Credit: NASA

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Eleven

Module move delayed

A problem with the controller panels in the common berthing mechanism holding the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo to the station has caused a delay in the crew's plan to unberth the cargo carrier and stow it in space shuttle Discovery's payload bay for its return to Earth.
"We're activated and communicating with the controllers but we are still showing some off nominal signatures and we're still analyzing," reported capcom Stan Love from Mission Control.
The flight plan had called for the move to begin at 7:41 a.m. CDT.

Flight controllers, working with the astronauts aboard the ISS, will continue to troubleshoot the issue until 11:00 a.m. today, and then try again tomorrow after the crew has completed "late inspections" of the orbiter's head shield.

If Leonardo still cannot be removed following those surveys on Friday, consideration would be given to adding a day to the mission to try again to remove the module off of the Harmony node.


Credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-15-2010 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Eleven

Module move going forward

Flight controllers have verified the electrical connections with the common berthing mechanism's panel assemblies that are holding the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module to the station's Harmony node. They are now working on procedures to demate the module assuming there are no further technical issues.

The timing of the operation is still to be determined.

Once released, Leonardo will then be moved using the station's arm into Discovery's payload bay for its return to Earth.


Credit: NASA TV
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