Trapped in orbit

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Science  08 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6355, pp. 986-989
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6355.986

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In 2018, NASA's Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) will rocket to the International Space Station. There, the $70 million device will chill clouds of atoms to less than a billionth of a degree above absolute zero to create Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), in which the atoms shed their individual identities and, flowing without resistance, behave like a single quantum wave of matter. In orbit, the atoms will hover weightlessly, giving physicists more time to perform experiments after the BEC is released from its opto-magnetic traps. CAL could pave the way for space-based atom interferometry experiments that could test the equivalence principle of gravity and make precise measurements of Earth's gravity field.