NASA is about to launch a cool spectrometer that will do a lot of seemingly boring stuff but could also get us closer to magnetic shielding for spacecraft.

I expect most of us have seen space shields depicted in science fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek.  It is seemingly impossible technology.  But we do inch closer and closer.  So many scientists were inspired to be scientists by those movies.   Now they apply new lessons in developing impossible technology.

On Friday's  shuttle flight it will be carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.  It will look for high energy particles in cosmic rays.  And an experient will provide information on using magnets as a radiation sheild for future spacecraft.

Sheilding astronauts from radiation is a major issue of manned spaceflight, especially lengthy missions such as to Mars.  These shelding problems must be addressed to make any mission viable.