Ambassador King welcomes Endeavor Crew to Geneva
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Club Diplomatique this evening to honor the astronauts of the STS-134 Endeavour Mission. But first I would like to congratulate our distinguished guests from CERN on their path-breaking achievement in discovering a particle consistent with the Higgs boson. The excitement of this achievement was shared around the world. This is a momentous time as science sheds more and more light on the mysteries of our universe. CERN’s achievement is truly outstanding, and we are delighted to be in your neighborhood!
Tonight in the presence of these esteemed astronauts and scientists, I would also take the opportunity to salute the life of Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Dr. Ride passed away yesterday at a far too young age for a woman of her indomitable spirit and significance. As President Obama noted, Dr. Ride was “a national hero and a powerful role model who inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools… Her life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”
I hasten to add that these accolades are very different from some of the comments we heard on TV when Dr. Ride first flew in Space. One comedian quipped that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes. I am happy to note that a part of Dr. Ride’s legacy is that women not only match purses and shoes, we also match wits.
While we are on the subjects of indomitable spirit and wit, our celebration today of the Endeavor’s last Mission is especially fitting as we recall achievements in reaching for the stars. It successfully installed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which was built at CERN as a collaborative effort of 56 institutions from 16 countries, including the United States Department of Energy, on the International Space Station.
Commander Mark Kelly successfully led this team of talented Specialists- Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and Roberto Vittori – on the 16-day Mission from May 16 through June 1, 2011 – just over a year ago.
The Endeavour shuttle, piloted by Gregory H. Johnson, delivered the AMS to the International Space Station.
After years of development, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, the vision of Nobel laureate particle physicist Samuel Ting, underwent final testing in the CERN and ESTEC facilities,and was sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in August 2010.
During its lifetime on the International Space Station, the AMS will look for an antihelium nucleus, the existence of which would provide evidence for the presence of antimatter that is central to the Big Bang Theory.
It will study the exact nature of dark matter, still largely unknown, and cosmic radiation, a significant obstacle to a manned space flight to Mars, in order to plan for possible countermeasures.
For those of us who are not physicists, it is perhaps easier to understand that the AMS is the largest and most advanced magnetic spectrometer in space, and scientists believe that it could help us unravel some of the most fundamental questions on the origin, evolution and nature of the universe.
These are exciting times in the world of physics and space discovery, and I would again like to thank everyone involved in this operation, which is set to have a lasting impact on science and our understanding of the universe.
As the U.S. Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, I note that we often do not often have the chance to enjoy such tangible success in our collaborations. So tonight I’m especially pleased to have the team of astronauts from NASA and the scientists at CERN to discuss the AMS experiment which may yield answers to questions pondered by scientists over centuries.
On behalf of the U.S. Mission Geneva, we again thank you for being here and hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.