MSL Takes First Steps on Road to Mars


A United Launch Alliance Atlas V, touched by a finger of morning sunlight meanders its way to Space Launch Complex 41. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

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.

Clara Ma stands beside a mockup of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that she named - Curiosity. Photo Credit: Bill Randolph

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