Cupola on the ISS

With the installation of the cupola attached to the Tranquility module on the International Space Station, I know what I will definitely be taking a look at if I ever visit the space station. (I can dream, can't I?) With its much more open view compared to the tiny viewports that were already on the space station, the cupola provides a beautiful platform for looking outside at Earth or at space.

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AMS heading up this summer

Made and assembled in Switzerland…
AMS-2 in Switzerland

The International Space Station has been an enormously expensive structure in orbit that took over a decade to construct. Despite the enormous expense, however, its scientific capabilities are somewhat lackluster. So it's exciting to hear that the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a superconducting detector which can study cosmic rays, is heading to the ISS in July. It will be a three-year experiment that could contribute greatly to the study of dark matter and antimatter in the universe. And to think that it almost got cancelled due to the lack of a shuttle flight ...

A container-less container in space


One interesting chemical instrument has been installed on the International Space Station. Called Space-DRUMS, it is a chemical reactor which can prevent the reacting chemicals from contacting any other solid material by suspending them in mid-air using sound waves. This means that it can avoid any chemical contamination from a container, such as plastics or glass, which can be useful for manufacturing ultra-pure chemical products. Although it might not be so useful if you even have to worry about contamination from the air itself: vacuum could prevent contamination from air, but then there wouldn't be any sound waves to contain chemical reactions.

This is the sort of thing that would be very difficult to do on the ground, if feasible at all. I have a feeling that sound waves powerful enough to suspend chemicals in mid-air in one Earth gravity would disrupt many chemical reactions that people may want to try ...