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10.27.2008

One Hot, Giant "Clamshell"

This animated GIF is a combination of two images. Both images are inside a large 'clean room,' the first image shows the heatshield and the second image is of the backshell. The people in the picture are all wearing protective white clothing including a face mask and gloves.

Hot off a special delivery truck from Lockheed Martin in Denver comes the aeroshell for the Mars Science Laboratory rover. Like two pieces of a giant clam, the aeroshell's backshell and the heatshield come together to protect the rover and the propulsion stage that safely delivers it to the surface of Mars. They need shelter from extreme heat caused by friction when it descends through the Martian atmosphere during landing.

Soon the rover, its parachute and sky crane will be stacked and placed inside the "clamshell." That whole package will then be mated with the cruise stage, which carries everything to Mars. Then, it's off to testing, in a lab that simulates the shaky conditions of launch and the cold and hot environments of space. If it passes the tests, the rover will be one step closer to its Mars destination!

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