Thursday, August 26, 2010

Particle physics detector arrives at KSC

The primary payload for the last scheduled shuttle mission landed at Kennedy Space Center today, completing a journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Switzerland just after 11 a.m.

An Air Force C-5 transport plane taxied into the Shuttle Landing Facility, where a group of international scientists affiliated with the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and the shuttle crew that will fly the instrument to the International Space Station, awaited.

"We have checked and rechecked and double-checked the detector, and we're now quite confident it will stay on the space station for its lifetime," Prof. Sam Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AMS principal investigator, told a group of journalists.

"For the next 20 years, when you look at space, and you see the space station, you will see there's one detector -- a very, very precise detector -- that will be there to collect data."

The seven-ton particle physics detector is scheduled to fly on Endeavour in February.

"We plan to do everything we can to get AMS successfully installed," said mission commander Mark Kelly. "Sam, I give you our guarantee: We're not going to break it."

Behind Kelly stood pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Roberto Vittori of the Italian Space Agency, Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff.

Crews planned to offload the AMS instrument this afternoon and move it to KSC's Space Station Processing Facility, where station hardware is prepared for flight.

The mission's payload is expected to be delivered to launch pad 39A in early February ahead of a targeted Feb. 26 launch.

IMAGE: Above, an Air Force C-5 plane carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer arrived this morning at Kennedy Space Center from Switzerland. Below, MIT Prof. Sam Ting shakes hands with Endeavour commander Mark Kelly. Credit: Michael R. Brown, FLORIDA TODAY.

No comments: