The 106.5-foot-long first stage of the Atlas V rocket for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is lowered onto its launch platform inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
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 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/Cory Huston