Inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a crane positions the final solid rocket motor (SRM) for mating to the first stage of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The Atlas V will carry NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission into space.
MSL's components include a compact car-sized rover, Curiosity, which has 10 science instruments designed to search for evidence on whether Mars has had environments favorable to microbial life, including chemical ingredients for life. The unique rover will use a laser to look inside rocks and release its gasses so that the rover’s spectrometer can analyze and send the data back to Earth. MSL is scheduled to launch Nov. 25 with a window extending to Dec. 18 and arrival at Mars Aug. 2012. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann