On Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, lightning masts protect the 197-foot-tall United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as it leaves behind the safety of the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex-41 to take its position on the pad's surface. Atop the rocket is NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), enclosed in its payload fairing. The rocket began its move from the VIF at 8 a.m. EST. Liftoff is planned during a launch window which extends from 10:02 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. EST on Nov. 26. MSL's components include a car-sized rover, Curiosity, which has 10 science instruments designed to search for signs of life, including methane, and help determine if the gas is from a biological or geological source.
More information about Curiosity is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/msl or http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.
Image Credit: NASA
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