In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians attach a lifting device to the payload fairing of an Atlas V rocket. The fairing must be raised in order to be placed on a transporter for the move to Space Launch Complex 41. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft is enclosed in the fairing, which will protect the payload from heat and aerodynamic pressure generated during launch.
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/Kim Shiflett