Workers unload a container holding the back shell, one of the first three elements for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that arrived at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility aboard an Air Force C-17 cargo plane.
The cruise stage, back shell and heat shield, the first flight elements to arrive for the MSL mission, were taken to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) located in the KSC Industrial Area to begin processing. The Curiosity rover will arrive next month.
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/Troy Cryder