In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, known as Curiosity, is being prepared to be moved to a rotation fixture for testing. The spacecraft's backshell (left), which carries the parachute and several components used during later stages of entry, descent and landing, also is visible in the image.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V-541 configuration will be used to loft MSL into space. Curiosity’s 10 science instruments are 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 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida 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