Factbox: Shuttle Discovery on one of final resupply runs

(BestGrowthStock) – U.S. space shuttle Discovery blasted off on Monday 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.

Following are highlights 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.

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(Writing by Irene Klotz; Editing by Tom Brown)

Factbox: Shuttle Discovery on one of final resupply runs