They may get to extend the mission a few days if the new Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System works. It looks like they'll be doing a bit of everything this trip; assembly on the space station, repairs, resupply and Barbara Morgan finally gets to go into space. After being a backup for Christa McAuliffe 22 years ago Barbarbara kept contacts with the space program and was invited back in 1998 to become a full-fledged astronaut. Now as part of The Educator Astronaut Project she not only has the regular duties of the crew but she also will take part in several education-related activities.
As the space shuttle program draws to a close the Constellation Program is ramping up. The new Ares launch vehicles will actually use some of the shuttle technology and facilities. The Orion crew exploration vehicle is a similar shape to the old Apollo ones but much bigger. Here's some info on Orion stolen directly from a NASA page:
"Orion will be capable of carrying crew and cargo to the space station. It will be able to rendezvous with a lunar landing module and an Earth departure stage in low-Earth orbit to carry crews to the moon and, one day, to Mars-bound vehicles assembled in low-Earth orbit. Orion will be the Earth entry vehicle for lunar and Mars returns. Orion’s design will borrow its shape from the capsules of the past, but takes advantage of 21st century technology in computers, electronics, life support, propulsion and heat protection systems."
In just a couple of years we will see the Ares/Orion combo take over the resupply of the Space Station.
Also on the space front, last Saturday saw the launch of The Phoenix Mars lander which is due to arrive at Mars next year around May 25
Today's geek photos are
The Phoenix launch
The Orion crew vehicle
A cool drawing of HD 98800 which consists of two pairs of double stars
Catch ya later,