A&M Physicists Part of $2 Billion Detector on Shuttle Endeavor

By: Michael Oder Email
By: Michael Oder Email

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Project
AMS Project website
AMS Project Twitter - @AMS_02


Perfect weather conditions this morning as the Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It's Endeavor's last mission as it carries seven astronauts to the International Space Station...including commander Mark Kelley. His wife, wounded congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, watched the launch.

The Endeavor also carries with it a $2 billion physics experiment that has ties back to Texas A&M University. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer will help researchers and scientists detect charged particles originating from the big bang.

With the final launch of the Shuttle Endeavor behind them, astronauts are headed to the International Space Station. In the cargo bay, a multi-billion dollar physics experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer or AMS.

"The best way to describe it a detector like the Hubble telescope," explains Texas A&M physics professor Dr. Peter McIntyre. Instead of detecting light, it's detecting particles.

McIntyre along with hundreds of other scientists are hoping to better understand the relationship between matter and anti-matter and to start solving the mystery of dark matter.

"It's a mysterious form of matter we don't understand. There's a lot more of it in the universe than the stuff we're made out of, at least by inference, but we don't know what it is," says McIntyre.

Eleven years in the making, the AMS is designed to sift through the universe looking for charged particles.

"We can detect those charged particles, some of them, here on earth. But by the time they go through the atmosphere some of them have been absorbed and the ones that haven't have lost most of their energy," explains McIntyre.

"Thank heavens for that because if it weren't the case we wouldn't be alive."

The detector will call the space station home for the next ten years.
From this unique vantage point, the AMS will provide a clearer picture of the origins of our universe without interference from the atmosphere.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has been powered down since last month and waiting in the shuttle's cargo bay. Astronauts will install the detector during a space walk next week.

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