Photos: Gale Crater on Mars, Curiosity Rover's Landing Site

Pieces of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Mission at JPL

Mike Wall

Pieces of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2011. From left: the Curiosity rover (along rear wall; its tires are on a table to the rover's right), the entry-descent-landing stage, the cruise stage and the backshell.

Mars Science Laboratory Entry-descent-landing System and Cruise Stage

Mike Wall

A close-up of the Mars Science Laboratory mission's entry-descent-landing system (foreground) and cruise stage, in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2011.

Giant Mars Rover Parachute Passes Key Test

NASA/Ames Research Center/JPL

The parachute for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory passed flight-qualification testing in March and April 2009 inside the world's largest wind tunnel, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Biggest Heat Shield Prepared for Mars Spacecraft

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

The heat shield for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is the largest ever built for a planetary mission.

Readying the Aeroshell for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission

Lockheed Martin

The huge aeroshell for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is readied at Lockheed Martin Space Systems near Denver.

Preparing Mars Science Laboratory Heat Shield

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

Technicians at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, prepare the heat shield for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, in this April 2011 photo.

Mars Science Laboratory: Engineers, Scientists Tackle Challenges

NASA/JPL/Corby Waste

The rover is to be powered by nuclear generator (not shown in this drawing) permitting the Mars machinery a long range ability to explore science targets.

Small 'Odyssey' Crater on Rim of Huge 'Endeavour' Crater

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity arrived at the rim of Endeavour crater on Aug. 9, 2011, after a trek of more than 13 miles (21 kilometers) lasting nearly three years since departing the rover's previous major destination, Victoria crater, in August 2008.

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