It’s the rare space shuttle that doesn’t shoot toward space without the Navy aboard in some form or fashion.
Monday’s predawn launch of Space Shuttle Discovery – officially it’s STS-131 mission – from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center came with two military officers at the helm, including shuttle commander and Navy Capt. Alan G. Poindexter, 49, along with pilot, Air Force Col. James P. Dutton, Jr., 41. The seven-member crew, which includes three women, is on a 13-day mission and the 33rd shuttle trip to the International Space Station.
Poindexter, a veteran F-14 Tomcat and test pilot, joined NASA in 1998, according to his NASA biography. He completed his first space flight 10 years later as the pilot for the STS-122 mission aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. Before the current mission, he had tallied 306 hours in space. And, yes, he is the son of retired Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, former national security adviser to the late President Ronald Reagan.
Space fans collecting mission patches might want to check out STS-131’s colorful, movie-styled poster on NASA’s Facebook page. And countdown watchers will want to take note: There are only three more approved space shuttle missions left before NASA shutters its shuttle program after Discovery completes the final launch, which is scheduled for liftoff on Sept. 16.
Scoop Deck wishes the commander and crew a safe return.