Mars Science Laboratory heat shield

Mars Science Laboratory heat shield

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Caption: Mars Science Laboratory heat shield. This heat shield is the largest ever built for a planetary mission. Together with the backshell it will form the aeroshell for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft. The aeroshell will protect the Curiosity rover as it descends through Mars' atmosphere to the surface. The MSL is due for launch at the end of November 2011 and to land on Mars in August 2012 on a mission to determine if Mars is, or was ever, able to support microbial life. Photographed at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Denver, Colorado, USA, in April 2011.

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