CHOLISTAN DESERT (CULTURE AND TRADITIONS)

Local Festivals

Various fairs and festivals are common in the Indus Valley. The Aryans were fond of beauty and soma- intoxicating liquors. The sages of Vedas expressed delight in the charm of female beauty. However certain festivals gradually became part of their religion as they settled in the sub continent. The story of Ramayana is enacted in the form of a drama festival called Rama Lilla. The festival culminates with the burning of effigies of the wicked Ravana and his associates. But in Aryan society such festivals were limited and their purpose was to teach people the values of conjugal fidelity, brotherly love, and obedience to paternal authority. However in Indo-Scythian society fairs, festivals, and melas were a permanent feature of the social life. These fairs and festivals were not held for the sake of pleasure alone, but their venues also served as places where city dwellers, farmers and nomads would meet once or twice a year to exchange their wares and good directly or through the intermediary of bazaar dealers. In the desert areas of Pakistan the utility of such fairs cannot be denied that are parts of valley’s social structure now. But what makes Cholistan most conspicuous in this respect is that here the greatest Mela of the Indus Valley is celebrated in the best Indo-Scythian tradition. It is held every year in March in the desert settlement of Channar Pir.

The Local Dialect

The language of Cholistan also reflects a number of features of its historical and geographical background. The local dialect was believed to be spoken by a rough, rude, and warlike people who liked to disobey every law and rule of grammar imposed by the so called super-cultured class of the Brahmans and their purified and gifted Sanskrit, which was the language of Indian Hindus.

The Saraiki language is an Indo-Aryan speech, and is spoken in Cholistan as well as in a large part of central Pakistan. It is no more a neglected language, once attributed to the camel-driving Jats and semi-nude Baloch tribes. It has always been as orthodox and conservative as the people who speak it. Even today the likes, dislikes, attitudes, and values of the people are the same as their forefather centuries back. Khwaja Ghulam Farid was a Sufi poet, who through his mystical writings and poetry not only developed the language a lot, but also gave it a boost. The language suffered a great loss when the Saraiki-speaking Hindus migrated to India during the Partition, and were replaced by the Muslim refugees from there. However, the majority of them lived in the cities and a very few in the Greater Cholistan. During the Partition, they moved to the safety of the neighboring Hindu states of Bikaner and Jaisalmar.

Arts and Crafts

In harsh and barren land where rain is more of a dream than reality, Cholistanis rely mainly on their livestock of sheep, goats, and camel. However in cold nights of winter they huddle indoor and engage themselves in various arts and crafts such as textiles, weaving, leatherwork, and pottery.

Local Crafts

As mentioned above, the Indus Valley has always been occupied by the wandering nomadic tribes, who are fond of isolated areas, as such areas allow them to lead life free of foreign intrusion, enabling them to establish their own individual and unique cultures. Cholistan till the era of Mughal rule had also been isolated from outside influence. During the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar, it became a proper productive unit. The entire area was ruled by a host of kings who securely guarded their frontiers, and their mutual competition helped promoting the development of arts and crafts. Each raja in his domain wanted to prove to the other rajas that his own artisans were the best. Because of this, not only the various crafts underwent a simultaneous and parallel development, but their designs, motifs, colors and textures also influenced the others. The rulers were the great patrons of art. Mesons, stone carvers, artisans, artists, and designers started rebuilding the old cities and new sites, and with that flourished new courts, paintings, weaving, and pottery. The fields of architecture, sculpture, terra cotta, and pottery developed greatly in this phase.

Livestock

The backbone of Cholistan economy is cattle breeding. It has the major importance for satisfying the area’s major needs for cottage industry as well as milk meat and fat. Because of the nomadic way of life the main wealth of the people are their cattle that are bred for sale, milked or shorn for their wool. Moreover, isolated as they were, they had to depend upon themselves for all their needs like food, clothing, and all the items of daily use. So all their crafts initially stemmed from necessity but later on they started exporting their goods to the other places as well.

Cotton and Woolen Products

Cholistan produces very superior type of carpet wool as compared to that produced in other parts of Pakistan. From this wool they knit beautiful carpets, rugs and other woolen items. This includes blankets, which is also a local necessity for the desert is not just a land of dust and heat, but winter nights here are very cold, usually below freezing points. Khes and pattu are also manufactured with wool or cotton. Khes is a form of blanket with a field of black white and pattu has a white ground base. Cholistanis now sell the wool for it brings maximum profit.

Textiles

It may be mentioned that cotton textiles have always been a hallmark of craft of Indus valley civilization. Various kinds of khaddar-cloth are made for local consumption, and fine khaddar bedclothes and coarse lungies are woven here. A beautiful cloth called Sufi is also woven of silk and cotton, or with cotton wrap and silk wool. Gargas are made with numerous patterns and color, having complicated embroidery, mirror, and patchwork. Ajrak is another specialty of Cholistan. It is a special and delicate printing technique on both sides of the cloth in indigo blue and red patterns covering the base cloth. Cotton turbans and shawls are also made here. Chunri is another form of dopattas, having innumerable colors and patterns like dots, squares, and circles on it.

Camel Products

Camels are highly valued by the desert dwellers. Camels are not only useful for transportation and loading purposes, but its skin and wool are also quite worthwhile. Camel wool is spun and woven into beautiful woolen blankets known as falsies and into stylish and durable rugs. The camel’s leather is also utilized in making kuppies, goblets, and expensive lampshades.

Leatherwork

Leatherwork is another important local cottage industry due to the large number of livestock here. Other than the products mentioned above, Khusa (shoes) is a specialty of this area. Cholistani khusas are very famous for the quality of workmanship, variety, and richness of designs especially when stitched and embroidered with golden or brightly colored threads.

Jewellery

The Cholistanis are fond of jewellery and have a craze for gold. The chief ornaments made and worn by them are Nath-nose gay, Katmala-necklace Kangan-bracelet, Pazeb- anklets, and Chandanhar etc., Gold and silver bangles are also made and worn with pride. The locals are experts in enamel works, and it is done on buttons of all sorts, earrings, bangles, and rings etc.

Love for Colors

The great desert though considered to be colorless and drab, is not wholly devoid of color. Its green portion plays the role of “color belt” especially after rains when vegetation growth is at its peak. Adding to that the locals always wear brightly colored clothes mostly consisting of brilliant reds, blazing oranges shocking pinks, and startling yellows and greens. Even the cloth trappings of their bullocks and camels are richly colored and highly textured.

Terra Cotta

The Indus Civilization was the earliest center of ceramics, and thus the pottery of Cholistan has no parallel in beauty, delicacy, and perfection. This is due to the fact that the local soil is very fine, thus most suitable for making pottery. The fineness of the earth can be observed on the Kacha houses which are actually plastered with mud but look like white cemented. The chief Cholistani ceramic articles are their surahies, piyalas, and glasses, remarkable for their lightness and fine finishing.

In the early times only the art of pottery and terracotta developed, but from the seventh century onwards, a large number of temples and images were also built on account of the intensified religious passions and the accumulation of wealth in cities. The building activity reached to such an extent that some cities actually became city temples. In fact the area particularly came to be known for its forts, villas, palaces, havelis, gateways, fortifications, and city walls.

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High Speed Photography

In a blink of the eye, a lot can happen. A lot of astonishing things happen in a split of a second, but they are moving too quickly for us to see. High speed photography is the art of photographing a rapidly occurring event. Depending on the event to be photographed, methods range from use of ultra-short time flash exposures to producing lots of exposures in a split-second. Seemingly frozen in time, a lot of photographers have their own special method doing high speed photography. The usual photographic flash component offers a flash that lasts around a thousandth of a second (a millisecond). But photographic flash component used in high speed photography is so much quicker than this, and it creates a flash of light around a microsecond (a millionth of a second). This let you to freeze time through pictures that are happening tremendously fast.

One-day Gas Closure for CNG Stations

The government of Pakistan have decided on Monday to stop gas supplies to CNG stations and industries for one day every week to increase power generation.

While the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines has announced that CNG stations in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwan will remain closed for 24 hours (from 6am on Tuesday to 6am on Wednesday), the Sui Southern Gas Company has set up a committee to decide a day for shutdown.

The day-off in industries will be on a rotation basis.

Dealers of CNG in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwan have accepted the decision on the condition that benefits of gas curtailment should be visible in two weeks. “If there is no let-up in electricity load-shedding by May 3, we will not observe the shutdown,” All Pakistan CNG Association chairman Ghayas Paracha told Dawn.

He said the association had given proposals to save electricity, but the government did not accept them.

The SSGC management held a meeting with trade bodies in Karachi on Monday night and decided to set up a committee to finalize a gas day-off for Sindh and Balochistan. The committee is expected to announce its decision on Tuesday evening. Malik Khuda Buksh, a member of the committee, told Dawn that the curtailment of gas would lead to higher petrol consumption and its import. “It’s not a wise policy.”

The SSGC expects to save 10mmcfd (million cubic feet) of gas from the day-off in the CNG sector and another 40mmcfd from industries. Its spokesman said the gas saved would be transferred to KESC and Jamshoro and Kotri power stations for power generation.

The SSGC will also reduce gas supplies to the fertiliser sector by around 20 per cent.

In a recent meeting with Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Naveed Qamar, CNG industry officials said that only 35mmcfd gas would be saved by curtailing gas to the CNG sector. This includes 25mmcfd from the SNGPL system and 10mmcfd from SSGC.

In his presentation to the minister, Ghayas Paracha said that 35mmcfd gas would generate a negligible 140MW whereas the shortfall was 5,500MW. Mr Paracha told Dawn said that were 2,500 CNG stations in the country. The government, he said, could easily save up to 200MW by completely cutting off power supply to CNG stations and allowing them to convert to captive power generation.

source by Dawn news

World’s First Full Face Transplant Surgery in Vall d’Hebron Hospital – Spain

Doctors in Spain have successfully completed the world’s first full face transplant on a man injured by a gunshot to the face five years ago.  The team of 30 doctors transplanted the entire face, including cheek bones and teeth in a mammoth operation that took over 22 hours.
The patient was shot in the face five years ago and was left unable to breath, swallow or talk properly and was severely disfigured.

He had undergone nine other reconstructive surgery operations, but they were all unsuccessful at restructuring his damaged face.

The full face transplant was actually undertaken in March of this year, but the hospital at which it was conducted, Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, have only released details of the operation now.

The man, who is currently recovering at the hospital in Barcelona, has apparently seen his face in a mirror since the operation and is pleased with the result.

There have been ten other face transplants, but this operation was the most ambitious and most complex, and has been hailed by the medical world as a great achievement. (Picture courtesy Vall d’Hebron University Hospital).

Nine Great Benefits of Reciting the Quran

Indeed to reflect on Allah’s verses is a form of worship that will draw one close to Allah Most High. This reflection is not a reckless and wandering one, rather it includes a study of the classical tafseer of the verses being pondered over, as this would fulfil Ibnul-Qayyim’s great advice, “Such as reflecting over a book which a person has memorised and he expounds it so that he may understand what its author intends by it.” Indeed the Book of Allah is not a book like any other, it is the timeless Speech of Allah, not a created thing, the study guide for life and death and what comes after. Therefore it deserves a more careful study than anyone else’s speech. It necessitates that its reader return to the early narrations of those who witnessed its revelation and heard its explanation by the one deputed by Allah to rehearse and explain His Words to humanity (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). For if one would try to ponder over the meanings of the verses without having done this study, then surely the filth of the time that he lives in and his ignorance of the correct application and understanding that the early Muslims had would cause him to understand some things not intended by Allah Most High, and therefore he would go astray, thinking to be worshipping Allah. So every sincere Muslim who hopes to earn Allah’s Love breciting and reflecting over Allah’s Book, then let him hold tight to the meanings explained by the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), and those taught by the companions and their immediate followers, and the early scholars of Islam.

So dear brother and sister Muslim! Know that reciting and pondering over the Book of Allah, devoting your time regularly to its study and implementation has tremendous benefits in this life and the Next, so let us now look to just a few of them to attach ourselves more firmly to Allah’s Majestic Words. Each benefit stands as enough of an encouragement to shun any laziness we have and dedicate ourselves to the Qur’an.

1 – Reading and reflecting over the Qur’an fulfils an Islamic duty.

Indeed the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) summarised this Religion with his statement: “The Religion is naseehah (sincerity)!” So then Tameem ibn Aws, may Allah be pleased with him, then said, “We asked, ‘To whom?'” He said: “To Allah, HIS BOOK, His Messenger, the leaders of the people, and their common folk.” [Muslim] The sincerity that is due to the Book of Allah includes its regular recitation, learning the rules of tajweed and reciting it beautifully, learning about its tafseer and the reasons for its revelation, affirming that it is the Truth, the perfect Speech of Allah and not part of the creation, honoring it and defending it, abiding by the orders and prohibitions found in it, teaching it and calling to it. [See Jaami’ul-‘Uloom wal-Hikam of Ibn Rajab Al-Hambalee] So by reading and reflecting over the Qur’an, one fulfills an obligation and is rewarded for that. Upon fulfilling this obligation, the Qur’an then becomes a proof for him on the Day of Judgment! And that is our second benefit we will take by embracing this Noble Book…

2 – The Qur’an will be a proof for us on the Day of Judgment.

This is due to the statement of the Messenger: “And the Qur’an is a proof for you or against you.” [Muslim] So one of two things will occur with this proof, the Book of Allah. It will either be in your favor, a proof for you on the Day when you will need every single good deed, or it will be something standing against you, the very Speech of your Creator, a proof against you! Who could be saved from the terrors of that Day if Allah’s own Speech is against him?!?! Think carefully, dear Muslim brother or sister, about your position with the Qur’an! Are you neglecting it, contradicting it, being heedless of its orders and prohibitions, are you thinking deeply over it?! Will it be on your side on the Day of Judgment.?! O Allah! We ask you, by Your Glorious Speech and the rest of your beautiful Names and Attributes, to make the Qur’an a proof for us! O Allah! Don’t make the Qur’an a proof against us on that Day, and save us from the hellfire! For if Allah makes the Qur’an a proof in our favour on that Day, then it would also be an intercessor for us, when NO intercession will take place except by His Permission.

3 – The Qur’an will intercede for us on the Day of Judgment.

The proof: Aboo Umaamah relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “Read the Qur’an, for verily it will come on the Day of Standing as an intercessor for its companions.” [Muslim]

4 – Your status in this life will be raised.

In Saheeh Muslim, we find a lovely story, about how a man from the people of Jannah, ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, understood this principle. Some men came to question him during his khilaafah about the leadership of Makkah, they asked, “Who do you use to govern Makkah?” He said, “Ibn Abzaa.” They asked, “And who is Ibn Abzaa?” Umar replied, “A freed slave from those we freed.” They remarked, “You left a freed slave in charge of the people of the Valley (the noble tribes of the Quraysh)!?!?” So he answered them, “Verily he is a reader of the Book of Allah and is knowledgeable about the obligations of the Muslims. Haven’t you heard the statement of your Messenger: “Verily Allah raises some people by this Book and lowers others by it.”

5 – You will be from the best of the people.

‘Uthmaan, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “The best of you are the ones who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others” [Al-Bukhari]

6 – There are ten rewards for each letter you recite from the Qur’an.

As an authentic hadith in At-Tirmithee proves: “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter and “meem” is a letter.” So increase your recitation of the Qur’an to gain these merits, and to gain the following merit as well.

7 – The reciters of the Qur’an will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels.

‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have TWICE that reward.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

So dear brother or sister Muslim, do not let the Shaytaan give you false excuses, such as “I am not an ‘Arab,” or “Its not my language.” This hadith is a firm proof against these whisperings. Dedicate yourself to the Book of Allah, whether you are an ‘Arab or not! The excuses have been eliminated and the pathway has been cleared for you to embrace the Book of Allah without holding back or offering excuses! And surely you will not hesitate to seek a teacher or a study circle for the Qur’an once you hear the last and perhaps greatest benefits of reading and contemplating over the Qur’an…

8 – Your position in Paradise is determined by the amount of Qur’an you memorize in this life!

‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas heard the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) saying: “It will be said to the companion of the Qur’an: Read and elevate (through the levels of the Paradise) and beautify your voice as you used to do when you were in the dunyaa! For verily, your position in the Paradise will be at the last verse you recite!” [Aboo Daawood and At-Tirmithee, saheeh]

9 – The Qur’an will lead you to Paradise!

The Prophet said: “The Qur’an is an intercessor, something given permission to intercede, and it is rightfully believed in. Whoever puts it in front of him, it will lead him to Paradise; whoever puts it behind him, it will steer him to the Hellfire.” [An authentic hadith
found in At-Tabaraanee, on the authority of ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood] Know, dear brother or sister, that these nine benefits from the many benefits available can only be attained by a sincere commitment to the Book of Allah, not by a person’s mere statement, “I love the Qur’an, it’s beautiful.” Rather the heart must be sincerely attached to Allah’s Book and the limbs and tongue will follow in this attachment. You must know that we only mentioned a few of the numerous benefits of reading and reflecting over the Qur’an. There are many benefits that await your reading in the Qur’an and books of hadith, like the chapter of the Qur’an that will argue on your behalf in the grave, and that it is a physical healing, a source of rest and relaxation for your heart, among many other things. And Allah knows best. (Taken from Look 4 Islam)

T20 Worldcup Schedule with Pakistani Time

ICC announced the schedule of T20 World Cup 2010 schedule which will be held in West Indies in April, 2010. Pakistan is last winner of T-20 World cup, and hope he will do again.

Group A:
Pakistan, Bangladesh & Australia

Group B:
Srilanka, New Zealand & Zimbabwe

Group C:
India, South Africa & Afghanistan

Group D:
West Indies, England & Ireland

No responsibility is taken by jamilhussain for the accuracy of this information.

NASA’s most Recent Photos

Journeys to the International Space Station

April 12th marked the 49th anniversary of human spaceflight, when Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the Earth in 1961. At this moment, 13 humans are currently in low-Earth orbit, aboard the International Space Station. Several were already aboard the ISS when a Soyuz TMA-18 brought a fresh crew up from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 2nd – they were later joined by the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the 131st shuttle mission to date (only three remaining launches scheduled). NASA recently signed a new deal with Russia for six more round-trips to the ISS, at a cost of $55.8 million per seat. Collected here are recent photos of the Space Station, its current crew, their launch vehicles, and the views from above.

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The Space Shuttle Discovery hurtles toward space after liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:21 a.m. on April 5th, 2010. The seven-member is delivering the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo, filled with supplies, a new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the International Space Station’s laboratories. The crew also will switch out a gyroscope on the station’s truss, install a spare ammonia storage tank and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station’s exterior. (NASA/Tony Gray and Tom Farrar)

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The Soyuz TMA-18 space ship is rolled out of a hangar to the launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan , March 31, 2010 for the start of the new Soyuz mission to the International Space Station on April 2, 2010. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin) #

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Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin takes part in a training session at the Star City space center outside Moscow April 1, 2010. Yurchikhin is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in a Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft. (REUTERS/Sergei Remezov) #

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The Soyuz TMA-18 spaceship is transported by train to the launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan , March 31, 2010. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin) #

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Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov and US astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson speak while wearing their space suits at Kazakhstan ‘s Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome on April 2, 2010 not long before launch to the International Space Station (ISS). (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A Russian Orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft at Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 1, 2010. (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images) #

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The Soyuz TMA-18 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 2, 2010. A U.S.-Russian crew blasted off in the Russian Soyuz spaceship on Friday for a half-year odyssey aboard the International Space Station. (REUTERS/Carla Cioffi) #

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The Russian Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft, carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko, blasts off from its launchpad at Baikonur cosmodrome April 2, 2010. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin) #

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The Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft departs from the International Space Station carrying NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, Expedition 22 commander; and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, Soyuz commander and flight engineer. Undocking occurred at 4:03 a.m. (EDT) on March 18, 2010. Suraev guided the spacecraft to a parachute-assisted landing at 7:24 a.m. near the town of Arkalyk , Kazakhstan , wrapping up a five-and-a-half-month stay aboard the space station. (NASA) #

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The Houston metropolitan area, seen at night in this image photographed by an Expedition 22 crew member on the International Space Station on Thursday March 18, 2010. (AP Photo/NASA) #

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A view of Libya and the Gulf of Sirte from the International Space Station on March 23rd, 2010 at an altitude of 337 km. (NASA/JSC) #

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Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, Expedition 23 flight engineer, uses a still camera at a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station on March 28th, 2010. (NASA) #

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“The World”, man-made islands in the United Arab Emirates , seen from the ISS in low earth orbit on March 19th, 2010 (NASA) #

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The International Space Station flies across the moon over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida approximately 15 minutes before the launch of space shuttle Discovery on the STS-131 mission. (NASA/Fernando Echeverria) #

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In the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida , space shuttle Discovery rolls through the open door of High Bay 1 into the night air on its 3.4-mile journey to Launch Pad 39A. The seven-member STS-131 crew will deliver the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo to the International Space Station aboard Discovery. (NASA/Amanda Diller) #

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NASA astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, STS-131 mission specialist, attired in a training version of her shuttle launch and entry suit, is pictured during a water survival training session in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near NASA’s Johnson Space Center on September 17th, 2009. (NASA) #

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The space shuttle Discovery sits on launch pad 39A Friday, March 19, 2010 at Kennedy Space Center , Florida . The payload, at left, is being transferred into the payload change out room where it will later be moved into the cargo bay of the shuttle. (AP Photo/Florida Today,Michael R. Brown) #

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An overall view of the space shuttle flight control room in the Johnson Space Center ‘s Mission Control Center during launch countdown activities a few hundred miles away in Florida , site of space shuttle Discovery’s STS-131 launch on April 5th, 2010. In the foreground are flight directors Tony Ceccacci (left) and Bryan Lunney. (NASA) #

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In the White Room at Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida , United Space Alliance space suit technicians ensure that the launch-and-entry suit of STS-131 Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson fits properly before she enters space shuttle Discovery through the crew hatch in the background. (NASA/Sandra Joseph and Kevin O’Connell) #

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The brilliance of space shuttle Discovery’s liftoff at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is reflected in the water near Launch Pad 39A. The seven-member crew will deliver the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo, filled with supplies, a new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the International Space Station’s laboratories. (NASA/Scott Andrews) #

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Space Shuttle Discovery is seen streaking into space (to the left) as a plume of smoke floats through the air after it blasted off from launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center on April 5, 2010, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #

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A colorfully-lit cloud left by Space Shuttle Discovery hovers over Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center April 5, 2010, in Cape Canaveral . (Matt Stroshane/Getty Images) #

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Backdropped by a cloud-covered part of Earth, the STS-131 external fuel tank (ET) begins its separation from the Space Shuttle Discovery following launch on April 5th, 2010. (NASA) #

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The space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station are in the midst of their rendezvous and docking activities in this image photographed by an Expedition 23 crew member aboard the orbital outpost on April 7th, 2010. Part of a docked Russian spacecraft can be seen in the foreground. (NASA) #

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NASA astronaut James P. Dutton Jr., STS-131 pilot, is pictured on the aft flight deck of space shuttle Discovery during flight day one activities on April 5th, 2010. (NASA)#

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This front-on, 800mm view of the top part of Discovery’s cabin was provided by one of the Expedition 23 crew members on board the International Space Station on April 7th, 2010. The shuttle was in the midst of a back-flip, performed to enable the station’s cameras to survey it for possible damage. The rendezvous and subsequent docking occurred early on April 7. (NASA) #

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A view of southern Egypt, Lake Nasser, and circular fields north of Sudan, seen from the International Space Station on March 1st, 2010. (NASA/JSC) #

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Heavily distorted by the Earth’s atmosphere, the Moon is seen rising above the Atlantic Ocean on March 31st, 2010. (NASA/JSC) #

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The station’s robotic Canadarm2 grapples the Leonardo Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) from the payload bay of the docked space shuttle Discovery (STS-131) for relocation to a port on the Harmony node of the International Space Station on April 7th, 2010. (NSAA) #

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The Japanese Kibo complex of the International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-131 crew member while space shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station on April 7th, 2010. (NASA)#

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This detailed astronaut photograph released by the NASA Earth Observatory on April 12, 2010 and acquired on March 31, 2010 provides a rare cloud-free view of the northern end of Semirara Island, located 280 kilometers south of Manila in the Philippines. The northern part of the island is dominated by the open pit Panian Coalfield, the largest of three coalfields on the island. Plumes of sediment from overburden piles enter the Sulu Sea along the northern and eastern coastline of the island. (NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY/AFP/Getty Images) #

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With 13 astronauts and cosmonauts on board the station at one time, activities around the galley in the Unity node get rather busy at meal time. Over half the 13 are seen in this flight day five aggregation on April 9th, 2010. NASA astronaut James P. Dutton Jr., STS-131 pilot, prepares part of his meal at left. Also pictured clockwise (from the right) are JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, both Expedition 23 flight engineers; NASA astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Clayton Anderson, both STS-131 mission specialists; along with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Mikhail Kornienko, Expedition 23 commander and flight engineer, respectively. (NASA) #

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Two Russian spacecraft docked with the International Space Station are featured in this image photographed by an STS-131 crew member while space shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station on April 8th, 2010. (NASA) #

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1NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson, STS-131 mission specialist, views a bubble within a water blob floating freely between him and the camera, on the mid-deck of space shuttle Discovery while docked with the International Space Station on April 12th, 2010. (NASA) #

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Dwarfed by space shuttle Discovery, NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio (right) and Clayton Anderson, both STS-131 mission specialists, are seen working in Discovery’s aft payload bay during the mission’s third and final session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station ion April 13th, 2010. During the six-hour, 24-minute spacewalk, Mastracchio and Anderson hooked up fluid lines of the new 1,700-pound tank, retrieved some micrometeoroid shields from the Quest airlock’s exterior, relocated a portable foot restraint and prepared cables on the Zenith 1 truss for a spare Space to Ground Ku-Band antenna. (NASA) #

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NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson, participate in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) on April 11th, 2010, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the seven-hour, 26-minute spacewalk, Mastracchio and Anderson unhooked and removed the depleted ammonia tank and installed a 1,700-pound ammonia tank on the station’s Starboard 1 truss, completing the second of a three-spacewalk coolant tank replacement process. The thin line of Earth’s atmosphere appears in frame center. (NASA) #

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The Aurora Australis, viewed by astronauts aboard the ISS, 356 km above the Indian Ocean on March 28th, 2010. (NASA/JSC) #

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The Aurora Australis, air glow, and cloud-obscured city lights – blurred by the relative motion of the ISS during the long-exposure photograph. Two Russian spacecraft, docked to the ISS, are seen in the foreground of this April 4th, 2010 image. (NASA/JSC) #