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Astronauts install Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on space station

Endeavour at ISS. A NASA photo

CAPE CANAVERAL (AP): Space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts accomplished the No 1 objective of their mission Thursday, installing a $2 billion cosmic ray detector on the International Space Station to scan the invisible Universe for years to come.

The space fliers used a pair of robot arms to remove the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer from the shuttle, then hoist it onto the sprawling framework on the right side of the station.

The instrument, which has a 3-foot magnet at its core is the most expensive piece of equipment at the orbiting lab and certainly the most prominent scientific device.

It will search for antimatter and dark matter for the rest of the life of the space station.

Astronaut-scientist Gregory Chamitoff said everyone looks forward to what it "will discover about the nature of the Universe."

"This is great news for scientists, engineers and inquisitive people around the world," Mission Control replied.

"Way to go."

Back at Mission Control, meanwhile, engineers continued to analyse several areas of damage on Endeavour's belly.

Thermal tiles were gouged and nicked during Monday's liftoff, the second-to-last for the shuttle programme.

Some of the slashes are as much as 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. NASA wants to make certain the shuttle is safe to come home in two weeks.

The damage was spotted in photos snapped by the space station crew just before Endeavour docked Wednesday. The shuttle performed a slow backflip for the cameras, a customary procedure put in place after shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere in 2003.

Mission Control may ask shuttle commander Mark Kelly and his five crewmates to take a closer look at the gouges this weekend, using a laser-tipped inspection boom.


Endeavour  ISS  

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