In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sections of an Atlas V rocket payload fairing obscure NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) from view as they close in around it. The blocks on the interior of the fairing are components of the fairing acoustic protection (FAP) system, designed to protect the payload by dampening the sound created by the rocket during liftoff.
The fairing will protect the spacecraft from the impact of aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent. 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 the 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. Launch of MSL aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is planned for Nov. 25 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann