The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is one of the largest and most expensive particle physics detectors of all time. Unlike its cousins at CERN, it operates thousands of miles above the surface of the Earth, orbiting on board the International Space Station. It is designed to detect particles of antimatter flying through space as cosmic rays, ultra high energy particles from stars and other sources.
October 1st saw a near complete shutdown of the US federal government, cutting funding to several major institutions.
The lapse in funding severely affected operations at NASA, with 97% of the agency’s 18,000 staff deemed non-essential. The remaining staff were assigned to tasks deemed ‘mission critical’ such as ground based monitoring of the International Space Station. A spokesperson said “NASA will be closely monitoring the impact of an extended shutdown to determine if crew transportation or cargo resupply services are required to mitigate imminent threats to life and property on the ISS or other areas”.