A team of local and federal emergency management experts said Wednesday they're ready for the November liftoff of a plutonium-powered Mars rover after a five-year effort to plan how they would handle any launch accident that results in a radiological release.
Odds of an accident resulting in the release of radioactive plutonium are remote: 1 in 420, or about 0.2 percent.
The Atlas V rocket launching the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory will be safely away from the Space Coast within 50 seconds of blasting off.
Nonetheless, officials say an exhaustive effort was made by NASA, emergency response and safety experts to protect people in the event of an explosion or other emergency.
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ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity being prepped for launch inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians are guiding an aerodynamic backshell as it is lowered over Curiosity in advance of encapsulation in the payload fairing of an Atlas V rocket. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V-541 configuration will be used to launch Curiosity on Nov. 25. NASA will have until Dec. 18 to put Curiosity on course for the red planet. The next window of opportunity: 2013. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis.