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The mars science laboratory (MSL) spacecraft is being designed to carry a large rover (> 800 kg) to the surface of Mars using a blunt-body entry capsule as the primary decelerator. The spacecraft is being designed for launch in 2009 and arrival at mars in 2010. The combination of large mass and diameter with non-zero angle-of-attack for MSL will result in unprecedented convective heating environments caused by turbulence prior to peak heating. Navier-Stokes computations predict a large turbulent heating augmentation for which there are no supporting flight data1 and little ground data for validation. Consequently, an extensive experimental program has been established specifically for MSL to understand the level of turbulent augmentation expected in flight. The experimental data support the prediction of turbulent transition and have also uncovered phenomena that cannot be replicated with available computational methods. The result is that the flight aeroheating environments predictions must include larger uncertainties than are typically used2 for a mars entry capsule. Finally, the thermal protection system (TPS) being used for MSL has not been flown at the heat flux, pressure, and shear stress combinations expected in flight, so a test program has been established to obtain conditions relevant to flight. This paper summarizes the aerothermodynamic definition analysis and TPS development, focusing on the challenges that are unique to MSL.