Because it has a goal! But a different kind of goal to the ones found in soccer: instead, it’s one to put American astronauts on Mars.

This bright white ball–a radome, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida–is one of the numerous steps in the ground systems development crucial to achieving that aim. In the photo above you can see technicians building the orb, which is a weatherproof protective enclosure for a new S-band antenna (the thing on the left) which was designed to provide complex tracking capability following liftoff of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket. When it’s finished, it’ll combine voice, television, telemetry, command, tracking and ranging into a single system. Clever.


Photos: NASA/Kim Shiflett


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