At the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians add weights (ejectable ballast mass) to the aeroshell, a component of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), in order to conduct a spin and balance test. The aeroshell consists of the backshell which carries the parachute and several components used during later stages of entry, descent and landing, and the spacecraft's heat shield.
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. Launch of MSL aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for Nov. 25 from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann