CAPE CANAVERAL – As the next to last shuttle mission gears up for its final flight, NASA technicians have delivered its payload canister to Launch Complex 39A where Endeavour is being readied for its launch date currently schedule to take place on April 19 at 7:48 p.m. EDT. Endeavour’s 25th and final mission, STS-134, is a supply flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
Now, while that might not sound so glamorous, part of the youngest orbiter in NASA’s fleet final payload is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). This device, which will be mounted on the outside of the space station could revolutionize man’s concept of physics. The device will seek out answers to questions regarding dark matter, dark energy and other exotic particles. Scientist think that this experiment might answer basic questions about how the universe began.
This will not be the piece of cargo that Endeavour will carry to the ISS, also onboard this flight is the Express Logistics Carrier -3 (ELC-3). What is essentially a rack that will contain spare parts for use on the orbiting laboratory is the last of four that will be mounted on the Truss segment of the ISS.
“We’re very excited about the April 19th launch,” said NASA payload manager Joe Delai. “We got ELC-3, its main purpose is to bring up ORUs or Orbital Replacement Units, this will supply the station with the spare parts that are needed as backups.”
With the payload safely tucked away into Endeavour’s payload bay, the next milestone on the road to launch is the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) which is scheduled to begin on March 28th. For now, the scientists, engineers and astronauts that are working to bring the AMS-02 to orbit are thrilled at the prospect of what this $1.5 billion piece of scientific hardware will do to man’s understanding of the cosmos.
‘I wish that I was about five to ten years younger because the kids that will read about what will be deduced from what AMS-02 discovers will have a revolutionary understanding of how the universe really works – stuff that we have no knowledge of whatsoever right now.” Delai said.Missions » ISS »