The U.S. Air Force has taken charge of a $2 billion antimatter detector destined to catch the last scheduled space shuttle flight in February 2011.
Airmen are loading the giant Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer into a C-5 Galaxy plane at Geneva airport for takeoff to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday.
The 8.3-ton (7.5 metric ton) device was built by scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, on the Swiss-French border.
Lead scientist Sam Ting said Wednesday the device will be docked to the International Space Station for 20 years to collect evidence of antimatter, dark matter and other phenomena.
Scientists believe the Big Bang created as much matter as antimatter but have never been able to detect antimatter outside a lab.