NASA News: NASA Ready For November Launch Of Car-Sized Mars Rover

WASHINGTON -- NASA's most advanced mobile robotic laboratory, which
will examine one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, is in final
preparations for a launch from Florida's Space Coast at 10:25 a.m.
EST on Nov. 25.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will carry Curiosity, a
rover with more scientific capability than any ever sent to another
planet. The rover is now sitting atop an Atlas V rocket awaiting
liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"Preparations are on track for launching at our first opportunity,"
said Pete Theisinger, MSL project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "If weather or other factors
prevent launching then, we have more opportunities through Dec. 18."

Scheduled to land on the Red Planet in August 2012, the one-ton rover
will examine Gale Crater during a nearly two-year prime mission.
Curiosity will land near the base of a layered mountain 3 miles (5
kilometers) high inside the crater. The rover will investigate
whether environmental conditions ever have been favorable for
development of microbial life and preserved evidence of those conditions.

"Gale gives us a superb opportunity to test multiple potentially
habitable environments and the context to understand a very long
record of early environmental evolution of the planet," said John
Grotzinger, project scientist for MSL at the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena. "The portion of the crater where Curiosity
will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried
sediments. Layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and
sulfates, both known to form in water."

Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as earlier Mars
rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The rover will carry a set of 10
science instruments weighing 15 times as much as its predecessors'
science payloads.

A mast extending to 7 feet (2.1 meters) above ground provides height
for cameras and a laser-firing instrument to study targets from a
distance. Instruments on a 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) arm will
study targets up close. Analytical instruments inside the rover will
determine the composition of rock and soil samples acquired with the
arm's powdering drill and scoop. Other instruments will characterize
the environment, including the weather and natural radiation that
will affect future human missions.

"Mars Science Laboratory builds upon the improved understanding about
Mars gained from current and recent missions," said Doug McCuistion,
director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. "This mission advances technologies and science that will
move us toward missions to return samples from and eventually send
humans to Mars."

The mission is challenging and risky. Because Curiosity is too heavy
to use an air-bag cushioned touchdown, the mission will use a new
landing method, with a rocket-powered descent stage lowering the
rover on a tether like a kind of sky-crane.

The mission will pioneer these precision landing methods during the
spacecraft's crucial dive through Mars' atmosphere next August to
place the rover onto a smaller landing target than any previously for
a Mars mission. The target inside Gale Crater is 12.4 miles (20
kilometers) by 15.5 miles (25 kilometers). Rough terrain just outside
that area would have disqualified the landing site without the
improved precision.

No mission to Mars since the Viking landers in the 1970s has sought a
direct answer to the question of whether life has existed on Mars.
Curiosity is not designed to answer that question by itself, but its
investigations for evidence about prerequisites for life will steer
potential future missions toward answers.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate
in Washington. Curiosity was designed, developed and assembled at
JPL. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of
NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in
Florida. NASA's Space Network, managed by the Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Md., will provide space communications services
for the rocket. NASA's Deep Space Network will provide MSL spacecraft
acquisition and communication throughout the mission.

For more information, visit:



NASA Sets MSL/ATLAS V Launch Coverage Events

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)
spacecraft with the Curiosity rover is set to launch to the planet
Mars aboard an Atlas V rocket on Nov. 25, 2011 from Space Launch
Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch
window extends from 10:25 a.m. to 12:08 p.m. EST. The launch period
for MSL extends through Dec. 18.

The spacecraft will arrive at Mars in August 2012. Curiosity has 10
science instruments to search for evidence about whether Mars had
environments favorable for microbial life, including the chemical
ingredients for life. The unique rover will use a laser to look
inside rocks and release their gasses so that a spectrometer can
analyze them and send the data back to Earth.

Briefings about the mission are scheduled throughout the week leading
to launch and will be held at the Kennedy Space Center's Press Site.

Science Briefings and Prelaunch News Conference (all times are EST)

Monday, Nov. 21, 1 p.m.: "What Do We Know About Mars?"
Participants will be:
Michael Meyer, lead scientist, Mars Exploration Program
NASA Headquarters, Washington
John Grotzinger, project scientist, Mars Science Laboratory
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
Bethany Ehlmann, scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Assistant professor, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m.: "Looking for Signs of Life in the Universe"

Participants will be:
Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program
NASA Headquarters, Washington
Jamie Foster, professor, Department of Microbiology and Cell Science
University of Florida, Gainesville
Pan Conrad, deputy principle investigator, Sample Analysis at Mars, MSL
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Steven Benner, director, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
Gainesville, Fla.
Catharine Conley, planetary protection officer
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 1 p.m.: Prelaunch News Conference
Participants will be:
Colleen Hartman, assistant associate administrator, Science Mission
NASA Headquarters, Washington
Omar Baez, NASA launch director
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Vernon Thorp, program manager, NASA Missions
United Launch Alliance, Denver, Colo.
Peter Theisinger, MSL project manager
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Clay Flinn, launch weather officer
45th Weather Squadron, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Curiosity Mission Science Briefing: This briefing will immediately
follow the prelaunch news conference. Participating in the briefing will be:
Michael Meyer, lead scientist for Mars Exploration Program
NASA Headquarters, Washington
John Grotzinger, project scientist for Mars Science Laboratory
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator for Sample Analysis at Mars
investigation on Curiosity
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
David Blake, principal investigator for Chemistry and Mineralogy
investigation on Curiosity
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Michael Malin, principal investigator for the Mast Camera and Mars
Descent Imager investigations on Curiosity, Malin Space Science
Systems, San Diego, Calif.
Roger Wiens, principal investigator for Chemistry and Camera
investigation on Curiosity
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M.

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 1 p.m.: "Why Mars Excites and Inspires Us"
Participants will be:
Leland Melvin, associate administrator for Education
NASA Headquarters, Washington
Scott Anderson, teacher and science department chairman, Da Vinci
School for Science & the Arts, El Paso, Texas
Clara Ma, student, NASA contest winner for naming Curiosity
Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas
Veronica McGregor, manager, Media Relations Office, NASA Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2 p.m.: "Missions to Mars: Robotics and Humans
(Originating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston)
Doug Ming, manager, Human Exploration Science Office; MSL
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
Bret Drake, deputy chief architect, Human Spaceflight Architecture
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
Matt Ondler, assistant director, Advanced Project Development
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
Mike Gernhardt, NASA astronaut
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
Dr. John Charles, program scientist, Human Research Program
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
A post-launch news conference will be held at the NASA News Center
approximately 2 ½ hours after launch.
Question-and-answer capability for all briefings will be available
from other NASA field centers. Reporters also can ask questions using
a phone bridge provided by Johnson Space Center. To use the bridge,
journalists must call the Johnson newsroom 15 minutes prior to the
start of each briefing at 281-483-5111.
Accreditation and Media Access Badges
Reporters who want to cover the MSL prelaunch news conference, mission
science briefing and the launch must complete the online
accreditation process at:
Accreditation for U.S. media must be received by Monday, Nov. 21.
Media may obtain their NASA access badge at the Kennedy Space Center
Badging Office located near Gate 3 on State Road 405, just past the
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Two forms of government-issued
identification, one with a photo, will be required in order to
receive an access badge. The Kennedy Space Center Badging Office
hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the office will
be closed on Thanksgiving. For further information about
accreditation, contact Laurel Lichtenberger at 321-867-4036.

Atlas V Launch Vehicle Rollout
Wednesday, Nov. 23: There will be a media opportunity to observe the
rollout of the Atlas V rocket from the Vertical Integration Facility
to the launch pad. Reporters should be at the Kennedy press site at 9
a.m. for transportation by bus to the viewing location near Space
Launch Complex 41. Media should register their planned attendance at
the event on a sign-up list at the Kennedy press site.
Remote Camera Placement at Space Launch Complex 41

Wednesday, Nov. 23: Photographers who wish to set up remote
sound-activated cameras at the Atlas V launch pad will be taken by
government bus to Space Launch Complex 41.Photographers should meet
in the parking lot at the Kennedy press site at 12:30 p.m. Remote
cameras are being placed at the pad two days before launch because
the pad will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Media should plan on
using a timer that can be set for more than 24 hours. Only news media
representatives establishing a remote camera at the pad will be
permitted for this activity. Photographers should register on the
sign-up list at the Kennedy press site.

Launch Day Press Site Access
Friday, Nov. 25: Reporters will cover the MSL launch from the Kennedy
press site. Access will be through Gate 2 on State Road 3 or Gate 3
on State Road 405, east of the Kennedy Visitor Complex, beginning at
6 a.m. There will be no access through Gate 1 at Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station or Gate 4 to the north of Kennedy Space Center.
Kennedy News Center Hours
Monday, Nov. 21: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 22: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 23: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 23: Closed for Thanksgiving

Friday, Nov. 25: 5:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
NASA Television Launch Coverage
On Friday, Nov. 25, NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin
at 8 a.m. and conclude after spacecraft separation from the Atlas V
occurs 53 minutes, 49 seconds after launch. Live launch coverage will
be carried on all NASA Television channels.
A post-launch news conference will be held at the Kennedy press site
approximately 2 ½ hours after launch. A post-launch news release will
be issued as soon as the health of MSL is confirmed. Spokespeople
also will be available at the press site to answer questions and do

For NASA Television downlink information, schedule information and
streaming video, visit:


Audio only of the news conferences and the launch coverage will be
carried on the NASA "V" circuits which may be accessed by dialing
321-867-1220, -1240, -1260 or -7135.On launch day, mission audio of
the launch conductor's countdown activities without NASA TV launch
commentary will be carried on 321-867-7135 starting at 7:15 a.m.
Launch coverage also will be available on local amateur VHF radio
frequency 146.940 MHz broadcast within Brevard County.

NASA Web Coverage
Extensive prelaunch and launch day coverage of the liftoff of the MSL
spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket will be available on NASA's home
page on the Internet at:


A prelaunch webcast for the MSL mission will be streamed on the Web on
Wednesday, Nov. 22, at noon. Live countdown coverage through NASA's
Launch Blog begins at 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. Coverage features
live updates as countdown milestones occur, as well as streaming
video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff. For
questions about countdown coverage, contact Jeanne Ryba at

To view the webcast and the blog or to learn more about the MSL
mission, visit the mission home page at:


The NASA News Twitter feed will be updated throughout the launch
countdown. To access the NASA News Twitter feed, visit:


Recorded Status
Recorded status reports on the launch of MSL and updates to the media
advisory will be provided on the Kennedy media phone line starting
Monday, Nov. 21. The telephone number is 321-867-2525.

Wireless Capability
There is no wireless capability at Kennedy for the news media.
Reporters should plan to bring air cards.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the MSL
mission. Launch management is the responsibility of NASA's Launch
Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Atlas V
launch service is provided by United Launch Alliance, Denver, Colo.


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