GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Six astronauts are making waves in the Geneva area this week, first with a walk in Chamonix Monday 23 July to lay a “historic milestone” awarded by the European Physical Society, then with a conference open to the public Tuesday at the Theatre de Leman and finally with an exchange with scientists at Cern Wednesday.
The six astronauts were members of the final Endeavour space mission that left Earth in May 2011: Mark Kelly, Gregory Johnson, Roberto Vittori, Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff.
They were carrying the AMS to the International Space Station. It has since been transmitting data to Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. The AMS, says Cern, “is studying fundamental issues about matter and the origin and structure of the Universe directly from space. Its main scientific target is the search for dark matter and antimatter, in a programme that is complementary to that of the Large Hadron Collider.”
Tickets to the Tuesday evening event, sponsored by the University of Geneva, which built part of the AMS, and the Foundation for Geneva, are free but must be ordered in advance.
Monday, the astronauts trekked from the Aiguille du Midi to the present Refuge des Cosmiques to place the historic milestone plate. Cern, in a statement beforehand, noted that
“Their mission (code-named STS-134) was to install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), the dark matter and antimatter detector designed at Cern, on the International Space Station. Since then, AMS has been sending over 18 billion cosmic rays events from space to the Payload and Operations Control Centre, on the Cern site.
“In 1943, a laboratory was established by the French CNRS-National Centre for Scientific Research at 3613 m above sea level, on the Col du Midi, Mt Blanc, under the aegis of Louis Leprince-Ringuet, to study the cosmic rays and their applications in nuclear physics. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of cosmic rays (Victor Hess, 1912) and after one year of cosmic ray detection from the International Space Station, the astronauts who flew AMS to the International Space Station will walk from the Aiguille du Midi to the present Refuge des Cosmiques.”
Cern scientists will then have an opportunity to meet the men responsible for getting the AMS up to the space station, during a visit by the astronauts and their spouses, one of whom is Gabrielle Giffords, wife of mission commander Mark Kelly, who was a US House Representative from Arizona, from 2007 to 2012. She was badly wounded in a shooting incident shortly before the mission left.