Rabat – Kamal Oudrhiri, head of NASA’s Planetary Studies Department, is at the heart of a groundbreaking US space agency project to install an instrument with unprecedented capabilities on the International Space Station (ISS), allowing it to create the coldest environment in the universe.
Designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to carry out low temperature experiments, this instrument, called the Cold Atom Lab (Cold Atom Lab, CAL), will be sent to the International Space Station in nest August, according to NASA’s official website.
In a statement to the Magreb Arabe Presse (MAP), Kamal Oudrhiri, who is also deputy manager of this project on behalf of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained that this experiment “risks rephrasing our perception of matter and fundamental laws of physics in general and of gravity in particular.”
Using the absence or rather cessation of the laws governing classical physics to be superseded by quantum physics, the experiment envisages creating the conditions that should give rise to an environment in which atoms will generate a new form of matter with the properties of particles and waves.
To achieve this, scientists will use an instrument consisting of several laser rays, an empty chamber and electromagnetic “blades” which together slow down the gas particles to immobility, while keeping in mind that temperature is only the measure of the speed of motion of fast atoms and molecules.
“Atoms in cold temperatures will thus transform into waves, which can be used for even more precise and faster communication, as well as for the substantial improvement of navigation systems,” observed Oudrhiri.
For Oudrhiri, “it is one of the most exciting scientific challenges, since it will be necessary to recreate on the ISS the conditions of an experiment already undertaken on earth in a room sized space of ten square meters, but this time in a hyper-condensed instrument on a scale so small it can be carried in a suitcase.”
“It also means that with all the capabilities of today’s technologies, we remain ignorant of some 95 percent of our universe. Like the lens of Galileo’s first telescope, the ultra-sensitive atoms of the CAL have the potential to divulge many mysteries beyond the boundaries of physics as we know it today,” the Moroccan scientist said.
Kamal Oudrhiri, who has been with NASA for about 20 years, has played a key role in numerous NASA missions, including those related to the Mars Rovers craft, the international mission “Cassini” on Saturn, at the lunar mission “Grail “, as well as at the Scientific Laboratory for the planet Mars with the robot “Curiosity” and the “Juno” space probe to Jupiter.