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This image features the large nose cone that will protect the Mars Reconnaissance Spacecraft before and during launch.  The white structure's larger, lower cylinder is capped by a cone-shaped piece.  The colorful Mars Reconnaissance logo adorns the side.  The logo background is black and dotted with simulated stars.  The cartoon spacecraft is 'conducting science' and is featured with brightly colored swirls that simulate the spacecraft's orbit around the planet Mars.  Within the logo, the swath of the HiRISE camera is simulated and that swath echoes the cone shape of the fairing itself.  A person dressed in light blue cleanroom attire (called a 'bunny suit') stands in front of the fairing, which is nearly four times his or her height.
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Fairing Preparing for Farewell

This image features the protective fairing that will encapsulate the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter atop an Atlas V rocket. The lively logo celebrates the intense science mission ahead of the orbiter.

The fairing (nose cone) is 4 meters (13 feet) in diameter and weighs about the same as the spacecraft. It is pictured here in a cleanroom at Kennedy Space Center, being prepared for launch on August 10.

The fairing protects the spacecraft from the weather on the ground as well as from the atmosphere during flight. When the launch vehicle is on the launch pad, the spacecraft is supplied with air conditioning in order to control temperature and to protect it from dust and dirt.

Shortly after Centaur engine ignition, the fairing is no longer needed, so it is separated into its two halves by explosive bolts and jettisoned. This operation is automatically controlled by timers in the Centaur. The two fairing halves swing away to either side of the spacecraft and fall back to Earth, landing in the ocean.

Credit: NASA

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