Another ho-hum shuttle launch today? Not so ho-hum, it turns out. SPACE.com reports the US is launching a bus-size collector of cosmic rays. Nobody has much of a clue what it might catch out there in space. But you can bet whatever we DO discover will change life on earth. Clara Moskowitz's full story can be read HERE.
By Clara Moskowitz
SPACE.com Senior Writer
When the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off one last time on Monday, it won't just be the culmination of the orbiter's career. It will also bring to fruition a 15-year, $2 billion quest to launch a device called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to space.
The bus-size Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is an astrophysics experiment that will use a magnet to detect cosmic ray particles. These particles could include bizarre antimatter or other exotic species that scientists hope will shed light on some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, such as the puzzling dark matter thought to pervade space.
SPACE.com spoke to AMS's principal investigator Samuel Ting, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
SPACE.com: What question do you most hope the experiment will answer?
Ting: For us as experimental physicists, the most important thing to realize is really, now you are entering a new domain where people have not carefully explored before. What we really will see, nobody will know, because you open the door into a new region.
SPACE.com: How likely is it that AMS will find dark matter?
Ting: For experimentalists, the most important thing is to not offer bias. My opinion and your opinion is the same. Unless you do observations, you will not know. Physics doesn't depend on vote.
SPACE.com: Why should people care about dark matter and antimatter?
Ting: The difference between humans and animals is curiosity. It's curiosity that drives a physicist forward to search for the unknown. Let me give you another reason. A hundred years ago, the frontier of science is the discovery of electrons, and the discovery of X-rays. At that time, nobody cares. It's only from 1930s onward people know you can use for medicine, you can use for doing electronics. In 1920s, 1930s, the frontier of science is quantum mechanics, quantum physics. At that time people asked the same question, how do we benefit from this? Now, your IT, your telephone, your television, almost everything in daily life, is from the work around 1930s.
SPACE.com: Will you open a bottle of champagne?
Ting: To start with, I don't drink. It's very important to be very calm, to know that your ability is limited, to do it slowly and carefully. Not jump up and down.
Read the whole story and interview HERE.
You can follow SPACE.com Senior Writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook.