This month marks 25 years since scientists first produced a fifth state of matter, which has extraordinary properties totally unlike solids, liquids, gases and plasmas. The achievement garnered a Nobel Prize and changed physics.
A new study in the journal Nature builds on that legacy. In July 2018, NASA's Cold Atom Lab became the first facility to produce that fifth state of matter, called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), in Earth orbit. A fundamental physics facility on the International Space Station, Cold Atom Lab cools atoms down to ultracold temperatures in order to study their basic physical properties in ways that would not be possible on Earth. Now, the mission team reports on the details of getting this unique lab up and running, as well as their progress toward a long-term goal of using microgravity to illuminate new features of the quantum world.