NASA’S SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR lifted off today on her last mission to the International Space Station. The launch of mission STS-134 took place at 10:56pm Sydney time (12:56pm GMT, and was in every way perfect. There were no problems and no anomalies during the ascent.
Endeavour is now heading towards a docking with the Station at 8:15pm Sydney time (10:15 GMT) on Wednesday, May 18.
The six crewmembers will spend 16 days in space on a mission to deliver a highly sophisticated European instrument designed to identify the cosmic fingerprints left by antimatter and ‘dark matter’ in the Universe.
The search for the mysterious dark matter will be conducted by the 6.9-tonne physics payload, the AMS-02 Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is possibly the most ambitious science payload ever launched to the Station.
“The international science community has great expectations of the data to be collected by AMS-02 to understand key questions such as: what makes up the Universe’s invisible mass?” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Using a giant 1.2-tonne magnet that generates a field 4,000 times stronger than Earth’s own, AMS-02 will analyse high-energy cosmic rays with unprecedented sensitivity and accuracy to look for antimatter and dark matter.
Antimatter is believed to have been created on a par with normal matter during the Big Bang, but it seems to have disappeared from the Universe we know today. Dark matter is estimated to account for around 90% of our Universe’s mass, but it has not been detected directly so far.
Endeavour is scheduled to return to Earth on June 1.
Adapted from information issued by ESA / NASA.
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