Now, NASA’s rover to blast Mars rocks with laserDecember 26th, 2010 - 11:32 am ICT by ANI
Washington, Dec 26 (ANI): NASA’s next rover will blast Martian rocks with a rock-zapping laser instrument.
The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on the rover Curiosity can excite a pinhead-size spot into a glowing, ionized gas. It then observes the flash through a telescope and analyzes the spectrum of light to identify the chemical elements in the target.
The data about rocks or patches will help the team survey the rover’s surroundings and choose which targets to drill into, or scoop up. With this data, they can determine if any environments in the landing area have been favourable for microbial life and for preserving evidence about whether life existed.
In late 2011, NASA will launch Curiosity and the other parts of the flight system, delivering the rover to the surface of Mars in August 2012, reports the Science Daily.
Roger Wiens, a geochemist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, proposed the instrument during NASA’s 2004 open competition for participation in the Mars Science Laboratory project.
The idea struck when he visited a chemistry laboratory building where a colleague, Dave Cremers, who had been experimenting with a different laser technique.
“The room was well used. Every flat surface was covered with instruments, lenses or optical mounts. The filing cabinets looked like they had a bad case of acne. I found out later that they were used for laser target practice,” said Wiens.
From that point, after 10 years of international development and testing, the project resulted in ChemCam being installed on Curiosity in September 2010.
“The trick is very short bursts of the laser. You really dump a lot of energy onto a small spot — megawatts per square millimeter — but just for a few nanoseconds,” Wiens said.
The flash comes back to ChemCam through the instrument’s telescope, mounted beside the laser high on the rover’s camera mast. The telescope directs the light down an optical fiber to three spectrometers inside the rover. The spectrometers record intensity at 6,144 different wavelengths of ultraviolet, visible and infrared light.
“We can see what the progression of composition looks like as we get a little bit deeper with each shot,” Wiens said. (ANI)
- Curiosity rover to test wheels, fire rock-shooting laser - Aug 18, 2012
- Mars rover Curiosity targets football-sized rock - Sep 20, 2012
- NASA to launch new mission to Mars Saturday - Nov 24, 2011
- Finding life on Mars could get easier with new tool - Feb 09, 2011
- Mars rover sends back human voice recording - Aug 28, 2012
- NASA picks landing site for next Mars probe - Jul 23, 2011
- NASA completes `brain transplant' on Curiosity rover - Aug 15, 2012
- Mars rover landing to be broadcast live - Aug 01, 2012
- Curiosity lands on Mars - Aug 06, 2012
- US rover to scout for Mars' habitability - Nov 27, 2011
- Curiosity makes maiden move on Mars - Aug 23, 2012
- Nuclear-powered US rover launched to probe Mars' habitability - Nov 26, 2011
- Mars rover to undergo 'brain transplant' - Aug 11, 2012
- Curiosity wiggles wheels ahead of first drive on Mars - Aug 22, 2012
- Curiosity sends first 3D images from Mars - Aug 08, 2012
Tags: alamos national laboratory, camera mast, chemical elements, chemistry laboratory, filing cabinets, flight system, geochemist, laboratory project, laser instrument, laser target, laser technique, los alamos national laboratory, mars rocks, mars science, martian rocks, microbial life, optical mounts, square millimeter, target practice, team survey