Antimatter detector to catch last shuttle to space

Antimatter detector to catch last shuttle to space

Airmen loaded the giant Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer into a C-5M Super Galaxy plane at Geneva airport for takeoff to Kennedy Space Center in Florida tomorrow.
The military planes are normally used to fly tanks and helicopters around the world, but scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, had to ask the US Air Force to help them out when they found the 7.5 metric ton device wouldn't fit into a 747 jumbo jet.

Sam Ting, a Nobel laureate and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer would be docked to the International Space Station to collect evidence of antimatter, dark matter and other phenomena over the next 20 years.

The AMS detector will complement CERN's Large Hadron Collider, a massive atom smasher deep beneath the Swiss-French border that scientists are using to simulate conditions similar to those just after the Big Bang in the hope of better understanding the makeup of the universe.

Antimatter, which the device was primarily designed to find, is sometimes referred to as the evil twin of ordinary matter and scientists believe the Big Bang created both in equal amounts - meaning that, in theory, there should be an identical universe to ours out there made entirely of antimatter.

But so far scientists have been unable to detect antimatter except in the lab. By searching outside the protective shell of Earth's atmosphere they hope to find solid proof of the elusive particle's existence - or reasons for its absence.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which took about 15 years to build and was part-funded by the US Department of Energy, will be one of two payloads carried to the space station on Endeavour STS-134, NASA's last shuttle mission scheduled for Feb 26, 2011.

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