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Gravitational Relativistic Physics (GRP)

Gravitational and Relativistic Physics (GRP)

    PAST: Gravity Probe A Seperator Dot Viking Seperator Dot Lunar Laser Ranging Seperator Dot LAGEOS I & II
PRESENT: Ongoing Research
    FUTURE: Gravity Probe B Seperator Dot AMS Seperator Dot STEP Seperator Dot LISA Seperator Dot SUMO
Launch Date: TBD
Mission Duration: 3 to 5 years on the International Space Station
Principle Investigator: Prof. Samuel Ting, MIT

AMS image

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer AMS will place a sensitive particle detector in Earth orbit to learn the makeup of the particles that exist in the cosmic void. The detector will allow scientists to determine the number, energy and charge of the particles that bombard the Earth from space. The scientists can use this information to determine how much antimatter exists in space, and how much matter exists in the Universe.

A proton is one of the most basic elementary particles of material making up the universe. Along with neutrons, protons are a constituent of all atomic nuclei. One of the particles that the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment looks for is the antiproton, the antiparticle of the proton. The antiproton has the same mass as a proton, but has the opposite charge.When an antiparticle hits a proton, the two particles are annihilated to create energy. By measuring the number of such particles, scientists can get a better picture of what the Universe is made of. This improved picture helps to measure the total mass of the Universe. The AMS experiment objective is to measure how much antimatter exists. Because charged particles such as the antiprotons are absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer must be taken above the atmosphere, into space, so it can take effective readings of these particles.

A predecessor 1998 AMS experiment, taken aloft by the Space Shuttle, was the first time a sensitive particle detector was placed in orbit. This early experiment was particularly helpful in calibrating the instrument so that a future mission will be able to take even more accurate measurements.

As scientists continue to verify the fundamental laws that govern our Universe, they ask such basic questions as: What are the ultimate building blocks of matter? What are the fundamental forces through which these basic particles interact? AMS will take a step toward answering these basic questions.

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