Astronauts from the space-shuttle mission that carried the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) to the International Space Station laid a European Physical Society (EPS) commemorative plaque at the high–altitude laboratory Les Cosmiques today, to mark 100 years of research in the field of cosmic rays. The plaque marks the lab as an EPS Historic Site Laboratory.
The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) founded Les Cosmiques in 1943 to study cosmic rays and their applications in nuclear physics. The lab sits at 3613 metres above sea level above the town of Chamonix, France, between the Aiguille du Midi (3800m) and the Col du Midi (3600m) on one side of Western Europe's highest mountain, Mont Blanc (4807m). STS-134 crew members Commander Mark Kelly, pilot Gregory Johnson and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori walked from the Aiguille to the lab. They will join mission specialists Gregory Chamitoff, Michael Fincke, and Andrew Feustel for a visit to CERN on 25 July.
After the discovery of cosmic rays in 1912, physicists took to the mountain tops to find out more about the mysterious radiation from outer space. Research on cosmic rays continues to this day, not only with instruments here on Earth, but also with space-based detectors such as AMS-02.
Les Cosmiques was officially inaugurated in 1946 in the presence of Nobel-prize winner Irène Joliot-Curie, and stayed operational until 1955. High-voltage lines suspended above the glaciers supplied the necessary electric power.
The astronauts will give a public lecture at CERN at 5pm CEST on 25 July. Tune in here.