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11.19.2008

A Precious Ring

These three images show the Mars Science Laboratory rover and its protective aeroshell being mounted to its cruise structure. The first image shows the car-size rover tucked inside one part of its aeroshell, the 'backshell.' There are two of the rover's six wheels showing at the front of the image. The second image shows the rover and backshell flipped over and mounted for the first time on top of the ring-shaped cruise structure. The final image shows the cruise structure (the 'ring' on top) and one part of the aeroshell (the backshell with the rover inside) flipped over and the bottom of the aeroshell (the black heat shield) being added. There are four mission team members in the foreground.

Just as jewelry makers take care to set a gem in a ring, a tireless team has been working late hours to tuck the Mars Science Laboratory rover inside its intricate, protective aeroshell and mount it for the first time on a giant gold "ring" (the cruise structure).

The "ring" has sparkling space blankets, glittering solar panels, and a radiator to keep its precious cargo at just the right temperature during its journey to Mars. It also has thrusters that will fire with fuel from its titanium tanks, adjusting the rover's flight path for an on-target arrival.

The team will continue its expert creativity, craftsmanship, and calculations. At both the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Kennedy Space Center, the prized pieces will be taken apart, tested, and put back together again before launch. That level of artisanship helps ensure the ring and its gem of a rover will make it safely to Mars.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Higher Res Images:
  In this image the Mars Science Laboratory rover is tucked inside one part of its protective aeroshell, the 'backshell,' along with its descent stage.
Full Size Still Image
In this image the Mars Science Laboratory rover and the backshell are flipped upside down and mounted for the first time on top of a 'ring,' or the cruise structure.
Full Size Still Image
In this image the Mars Science Laboratory cruise structure (the 'ring' on top) and one part of the aeroshell (the backshell with the rover inside) are flipped over, and the bottom of the aeroshell (the black heat shield) is then added.
Full Size Still Image

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