Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An image of the Curiosity Mars rover taken with its own Mast Camera system.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Malin Space Science Systems

EXACTLY ONE MONTH FROM TODAY, the launch window opens up for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission...which has till December 18 to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida to embark on an 8-month journey to the Red Planet. Arrival on Mars, if everything goes as planned, will take place between August 6 and August 20 of 2012. As shown below, the Curiosity Mars rover (which is the centerpiece of MSL) is now encased inside its aeroshell—which was recently attached to the cruise stage that will provide electricity and propel the spacecraft to its destination on the Martian surface (at Gale Crater) next year.

Later today, MSL will be encapsulated inside the payload fairing of the Atlas V rocket launching it to Mars...and will then be transported to its pad at CCAFS for final launch preparations on or around November 2. Things are starting to get real exciting in Florida if you’re a fan of Mars exploration, and unmanned spaceflight in particular. Carry on.

The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft.
NASA / Glenn Benson

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