TRAVELING WITH AMS-02: THE ARRIVAL
And so we finally land, after an amazing journey on board the C5-M of the US Air Force.
At 11:18 a.m., after ten hours and 10 minutes of flight, exactly as scheduled, we touch the ground on the famous “Strip”. The arrival was incredibily smooth for such a huge aircraft. Once on the runway, the C5 slowed down came to a stop guided by crew member’s eyesight: one of them climbed to the top of the fuselage to verify the aircraft’s movements till the engines were switched off.
Nobody at the beginning could see us after landing, because we just appeared out from a trees’ line.
«It’s unbelievable to be in Florida with AMS-02», seems to think Roberto Battiston, AMS deputy, who fell on his knees and kissed the ground.
He was joking, but not that much. We know that AMS has to fly again toward its final destination, but this trip was a fundamental step: the experiment is now fully operational and is ready to start measuring cosmic rays from space.
When the C5-M was in parking conditions, we begin to get off the plane: first the people, then AMS and all its other hardware.
A lot of people are here to welcome us and celebrate the arrival of the experiment: the father of AMS, the Nobelist Samuel Ting, who flew to Florida before us, Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of ESA’s Human Space Flight, Joe Delai, Kennedy’s STS-134 payload manager, Mark Sistilli, NASA’s AMS program manager, and a lot of journalists and photographers. Also, NASA TV broadcasted our arrival live.
And there are also six persons very important for AMS: the crew of the STS-134 mission who will travel with the experiment on the Shuttle Endeavour.
Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff flew from Houston on their T38 Supersonic Trainer Jets to welcome AMS-02. You can see some of them talking with C5 crew members.
Then it’s time to transfer AMS. A special truck (note the different design from the CERN trucks) brings the experiment from the C5 to the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), where it will spend the next few months.
Samuel Ting and Roberto Battiston, who overviewed all the transport operations in Geneva, now look closely (tired and happy) while the KSC personnel installs AMS-02 in the SSPF.
And there is someone who wants to greet AMS and wish good luck for its mission… all the C-5M crew members!
The crew signatures are now on the AMS container.
They promised to come back to KSC for the launch.
Our trip with AMS-02 is finally over: it’s been a mix of science and emotions that we will remember for a long time. In a few months, AMS-02 will travel much, much farther. And we still have a lot of work to do…