The Next Launch – Atlas V 541 Rocket to Mars!

Filed under: Kennedy Space Center |

Locals and visitors to Central Florida are invited to be a part of the excitement throughout Thanksgiving weekend as NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission carrying the car-sized Curiosity rover launches aboard a massive Atlas V 541 rocket on its way to explore the red planet. The launch is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 25, at 10:25 a.m., the day after Thanksgiving, with special events and launch-related activities taking place throughout the week and beyond.

A limited number of guests are invited to witness the historic MSL launch from select designated locations within Kennedy Space Center, for just $20 plus the cost of admission (required). Or, guests may watch the launch from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for the cost of admission, which is $43 + tax for adults and $33 + tax for children ages 3-11. Guests may purchase an Annual Pass and enjoy unlimited visits for one calendar year from date of purchase (with the exception of Dec. 25) for just $13 more – $56 + tax for adults and $46 + tax for children ages 3-11.

Throughout the launch week and beyond, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will host a variety of special events and launch-related activities. Beginning Nov. 21, the Visitor Complex welcomes a Mars Rover Exhibit, featuring a trio of full sized, high fidelity rover  models from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) including: Sojourner, Mars Exploration Rover (MER) and the newest member of the family, the car-sized MSL rover, Curiosity. The exhibit, located in Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted, will remain at the Visitor Complex through March 2012.

Nov. 22 through 26, children of all ages are invited to the LEGO® Build the Future play area. Guests will be admitted to the play area for 45 minutes to build their vision of the future out of LEGO bricks. For a glimpse at LEGO activities, visit

On Nov. 25, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex welcomes back special guest Bill Nye of the Emmy award-winning TV show, “Bill Nye The Science Guy,®who will speak to guests at the IMAX® Theater at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to discuss the MSL mission and Curiosity rover. Seating for Nye’s presentations is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so early arrival at the IMAX Theater is recommended.

Bill Nye is the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest group, as well as a scientist, former Boeing engineer, stand-up comedian, author, inventor and man on a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society. He is the host of three currently running TV shows including “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” on the Science Channel, “The Eyes of Nye” on PBS and “Stuff Happens” on Planet Green.

On Nov. 25-26, guests may take part in the Scientists in Action live webcast and ask questions of MSL scientists as well as attend live presentations by visiting Mars scientists.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission features the car-sized Curiosity rover, equipped with the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever deployed to the surface of Mars. After an eight-month journey, MSL will land on Mars in August 2012. The innovative and precise guided entry and powered sky crane descent employed to place Curiosity on the Martian surface has made many of Mars’ most intriguing regions viable destinations for the first time. In the 23-months (one Mars year) after landing, Curiosity will analyze samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores, assesses and characterizes its landing region site with greater capabilities than any previous Mars rover. Much like a robotic field geologist and mobile geochemical and environmental laboratory, Curiosity will provide NASA scientists with new data for understanding Mars as a potential habitat for life, past or present.

To purchase MSL Launch Viewing tickets, visit or call 866-737-5235. Due to the anticipated popularity of launch viewing opportunities, reservations are strongly suggested.

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