Preparations are under way to enclose NASA's Mars Science Laboratory in an Atlas V rocket payload fairing in this photograph from inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The blocks on the interior of the fairing are components of the fairing acoustic protection system, designed to protect the payload by dampening the sound created by the rocket during liftoff. The fairing protects the spacecraft from the impact of aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent.
The spacecraft's components include a car-sized rover, Curiosity, which has 10 science instruments designed to search for evidence about whether Mars has had environments favorable to microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.
Launch of the Mars Science Laboratory aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is planned for Nov. 25 from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Launch management is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Atlas V launch service is provided by United Launch Alliance, Denver, Colo.