Shipping Spacecraft to Cape
After months of building and testing the Curiosity rover, the rover and its cruise stage were disassembled and carefully packed for a cross-county trip from its birthplace in California to Florida in preparation for launch.
The spacecraft components were so large, that two trips were made. In May, the rover's aeroshell -- the protective covering for the trip to the Red Planet -- and the cruise stage, which will guide it to Mars, arrived at Kennedy first. On the second trip in June, the rover was accompanied by the rocket-powered descent stage that will fly the rover during the final moments before landing on Mars.
An Air Force C-17 transport plane carried the spacecraft components on two flights, which began at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. The hardware was first boxed and trucked from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and delivered to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The rover and other spacecraft components underwent more assembly and testing at Kennedy Space Center before mission staff stacked them and fueled the onboard propulsion systems.