Just before 9 am East coast time, the space shuttle Endeavour launched for the International Space Station (ISS). Endeavour is the penultimate shuttle to fly and is carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a US$2 billion space mission designed to look for antimatter in space.
The AMS was developed at CERN, Europe’s premier particle accelerator laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. It is the brain child of Sam Ting, a Nobel prize-winning physicist who lobbied tirelessly around the world for the detector’s completion. The spectrometer is designed to take direct measurements of antimatter particles in space. The AMS has been controversial. A last minute magnet switch has diminished its effectiveness, and some question the value of the mission, given the ability to measure antimatter from the ground. Nevertheless, it will hopefully deliver solid data from the space station that could be interesting, especially in lightof recent antimatter measurements.
Endeavour is also notable for its commander, Mark Kelly. Earlier this year, Kelly’s wife, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by a lone gunman. Giffords miraculously survived the shooting and was at the launch to see her husband off.