CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Emerging from the Vertical Integration Facility a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket trundled slowly toward the adjacent Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41). Its payload, the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL rover ‘Curiosity’ safely cocooned in its fairing. The short trip, conducted on rails, provides a dramatic view of space operations.
NASA and its family of contractors are currently looking at a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions. There are no technical issues that are being worked and the highly-anticipated launch of a planetary rover, the first since the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity bounced to a safe landing on the red planet in 2003.
Curiosity was named by 14-year-old Clara Ma, whose name for the next rover to head to Mars was selected through a national competition. She was at the NASA press to talk about her experiences both before and after naming MSL.