According to a NASA press release, the “back shell powered descent vehicle” configuration, containing NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, is being placed on the spacecraft’s heat shield at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The heat shield and the spacecraft’s back shell together form an encapsulating aeroshell that will protect the rover from the intense heat that will be generated as the flight system descends through the Martian atmosphere.
The mission is on track for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. This mission will land Curiosity on Mars in August 2012. Researchers will use the tools on the rover to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.
More information about Curiosity is at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech