Rover’s laser instrument zaps first Martian rock

This composite image, with magnified insets, depicts the first laser test by the Chemistry and Camera, or ChemCam, instrument aboard NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. The composite incorporates a Navigation Camera image taken prior to the test, with insets taken by the camera in ChemCam. The circular insert highlights the rock before the laser test. The square inset is further magnified and processed to show the difference between images taken before and after the laser interrogation of the rock. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP)

Today, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called “Coronation.”

The mission’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second.

The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target.

“We got a great spectrum of Coronation — lots of signal,” said ChemCam Principal Investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M. “Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results. After eight years building the instrument, it’s payoff time!” Via Rover’s laser instrument zaps first Martian rock.

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2 Responses to Rover’s laser instrument zaps first Martian rock

  1. alfy says:

    I heard a couple of astounding factoids about “curiosity” on today’s news on the radio.
    1. Since landing, (a week and a half ago?) the mother has not yet moved.
    2. Its top speed when moving is about 40 metres A DAY!
    Wake me up before Xmas 2012 if something happens. If there is life on Mars it is probably assembling a pile of turds for “curiosity” to blunder into. It will take it a week at least, to get out of the mess.

    • Deskarati says:

      And a good morning to you Alfy. It’s so good to have you back on form bringing us all back down to terra firma after the excitement of the Mars Rover mission landing.

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