Mars Curiosity: Let the Frickin Zapping Begin!

Curiosity zapped its first rock today, and here’s the image NASA provided:

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.

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Here’s part of what NASA said about this:

ChemCam recorded spectra from the laser-induced spark at each of the 30 pulses. The goal of this initial use of the laser on Mars was to serve as target practice for characterizing the instrument, but the activity may provide additional value. Researchers will check whether the composition changed as the pulses progressed. If it did change, that could indicate dust or other surface material being penetrated to reveal different composition beneath the surface. The spectrometers record intensity at 6,144 different wavelengths of ultraviolet, visible and infrared light.

“It’s surprising that the data are even better than we ever had during tests on Earth, in signal-to-noise ratio,” said ChemCam Deputy Project Scientist Sylvestre Maurice of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France. “It’s so rich, we can expect great science from investigating what might be thousands of targets with ChemCam in the next two years.”

The technique used by ChemCam, called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, has been used to determine composition of targets in other extreme environments, such as inside nuclear reactors and on the sea floor, and has had experimental applications in environmental monitoring and cancer detection. Today’s investigation of [the rock dubbed] Coronation is the first use of the technique in interplanetary exploration.

I want to learn more about this laser device.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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One Response to Mars Curiosity: Let the Frickin Zapping Begin!

  1. Longtooth says:

    I hope you give your blog an update on what you learn.

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