NASA assembles Mars vehicle in cleanroom

Spacecraft engineers test Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mars roving vehicle Curiosity, the centrepiece of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, is coming together for extensive testing prior to its late 2011 launch.

This image, taken on 29 June, shows the rover with the mobility system – wheels and suspension – in place after installation on 28/29 June.

Spacecraft engineers and technicians are assembling and testing the rover in a large cleanroom at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, US.

Curiosity's six-wheel mobility system, with a rocker-bogie suspension system, resembles the systems on earlier, smaller Mars rovers, but for Curiosity, the wheels will also serve as landing gear when the mission's rocket-powered descent stage lowers the rover directly on to the surface of Mars in August 2012. Each wheel is half a metre (20in) in diameter.