Escorting the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight, has been following for more than 15 years the development of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). Last August, in a “great day” for fundamental physics, she didn’t miss the opportunity to be present for its arrival at the launch site, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The antimatter hunter AMS-02 began the first stage of its voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) from Geneva international airport, in Switzerland. The US Air Force Galaxy transport aircraft carried it to Cape Canaveral, where Di Pippo and the Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Samuel Ting, Principal Investigator of the experiment, welcomed one of the most complex space scientific instruments ever built.
AMS-02 was also escorted by the astronauts who will fly with it to the ISS on the Space Shuttle Endeavour next February 2011. The European astronaut Roberto Vittori, who will be flying on an opportunity provided by the Italian space agency (ASI), followed the unloading with the rest of the crew.
"This is the way to work for the future: working together for a huge endeavor in exploring the Solar System", says Di Pippo. The state-of-the-art particle physics detector is the result of years of international collaboration among institutions and research centres from Europe, United States and Asia.
AMS-02 is currently undergoing the final tests at the Space Station Processing Facility, where the first operations have been devoted to check the interfaces between the experiment and the ISS. Once attached to the Station, the instrument will search for signs of antimatter and dark matter in space, a big step ahead in understanding the physics of our universe.