Shuttle Discovery launches to enhance Space Station Science
Space shuttle Discovery, with its seven-member crew, launched at 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle will deliver supplies, equipment and a new crew member to the International Space Station.
Inside the shuttle's cargo bay is the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, a pressurized "moving van" that will be temporarily installed to the station. The module will deliver storage racks; materials and fluids science racks; a freezer to store research samples; a new sleeping compartment; an air purification system; and a treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert. The name "Colbert" received the most entries in NASA's online poll to name the station's Node 3. NASA named the node Tranquility.
The 13-day flight will include three spacewalks to replace experiments outside the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, install a new ammonia storage tank and return the used one. Ammonia is needed to move excess heat from inside the station to the radiators located outside.
The mission marks the start of the transition from assembling the space station to using it for continuous scientific research. Assembly and maintenance activities have dominated the available time for crew work. As completion nears, additional facilities and the crew members to operate them will enable a measured increase in time devoted to research as a national and multinational orbiting laboratory.