Updated May 27, 2011 at 11:45 a.m. PDT
Lifts Resumed; No Damage From May 20 Incident
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project has completed actions in response to an inadvertent lift of the spacecraft's back shell on May 20. Analysis found no damage resulted from the incident.
Use of cranes for maneuvering spacecraft components has resumed with operational processes strengthened to help prevent future lift issues. Normal prelaunch assembly and processing of the spacecraft is continuing.
PASADENA, Calif. -- During processing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., an incident occurred on Friday, May 20, involving the spacecraft's back shell.
A crane lift of the hardware caused unexpected mechanical loads on interfaces between the back shell and its ground support equipment. These interfaces are used during ground operations in preparation for launch. A structural assessment of the back shell was performed in the area of these interfaces.
Inspections and analyses through Monday, May 23, have not identified any damage. Flight processing is expected to continue this week.
The back shell is used to protect the rover and descent stage during entry in Mars' upper atmosphere.
Mars Science Laboratory will launch during the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011, taking its rover, Curiosity, to an August 2012 landing. During a two-year mission on Mars, Curiosity will investigate whether a selected area of Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and for preserving evidence about life.
The spacecraft's back shell, heat shield and cruise stage were delivered to Kennedy Space Center on May 12. The rover and descent stage will be delivered in June.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. More information about the Mars Science Laboratory is available online at http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ and http://www.nasa.gov/msl .
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.