This spacecraft is being readied for a one-way mission to deflect an asteroid

In a clean room in Building 23 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, a spacecraft called DART was splayed open like a fractured, cubic egg. An instrument called a star tracker—which will, once DART is in deep space, ascertain which way is up—was mounted to the core, along with batteries and a variety of other sensors. The avionics system, DART’s central computer, was prominently attached to square, precision-machined panels that will form the sides, once the spacecraft is folded up. Wires ran from the computer to the radiosystem that DART will use to communicate with Earth. Gyroscopes and antennas were exposed. In a room next door, an experimental thruster system called NEXT-C was waiting its turn. Great bundles of thick tendrils wrapped in silver insulation hung down from the spacecraft and ran along the floor to the control room, where they connected to a

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