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NASA launches space shuttle Discovery

Space shuttle Discovery lifts off. Photo: NASA TV

CAPE CANAVERAL (BNS): The space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Kennedy Space Center at 06:21 a.m (local time) on Monday.

The launch began a 13-day flight to the International Space Station and the second of five shuttle missions planned for 2010.

According to a NASA press release, discovery is scheduled to dock to the space station at 03:44 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7. The shuttle will deliver science experiments, equipment and supplies to the station.

"The crew of STS-131 is really honoured to represent the thousands of dedicated people that make up the entire NASA, JAXA and contractor workforces," Commander Alan Poindexter said in the release.

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 cargo 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's cargo bay Thursday, April 15, it said.

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.

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