A particle detector to be launched aboard shuttle Endeavour will help NASA learn how to protect future space travelers from radiation .
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector is scheduled to launch Friday aboard space shuttle Endeavour.
Once installed on the space station, the detector will provide scientists with their first detailed look at high-energy particles in cosmic rays.
An experiment also will provide information about using a magnet as a radiation shield for future spaceships.
A particle detector being prepared for launch Friday aboard space shuttle Endeavour is intended to answer some fundamental questions about physics, but it has a practical side as well -- testing a way to shield future astronauts from potentially harmful cosmic rays.
At the heart of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, is a 2-ton magnet that will bend high-energy particles into five detectors for analysis. Scientists hope to learn about dark matter, antimatter and other exotic phenomenon, but engineers at NASA who are developing next-generation spaceships are keen to learn how similar magnets could be used not to attract particles, but to repel them.