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Curiosity: The ChemCam Takes Action..!


(This image shows the calibration target for the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA’s Curiosity rover. The calibration target is one square and a group of nine circles that look dark in the black-and-white image. The calibration target set can be seen in the middle left in this image, to the right of the rover’s power source. The materials used in these circles are the types of materials scientists anticipated they might encounter on Mars. The square is a titanium alloy with a painted edge. This annotated version indicates where the target is. / NASA /)

Interrogating “Coronation…” / Curiosity

  • 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. / Curiosity /


(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. The test took place on Aug. 19, 2012. / NASA /)

A Great Spectrum Of Coronation… / Curiosity

  • “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!”
  • 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. / Curiosity /


(The Curiosity engineering team created this view from images taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover front hazard avoidance cameras underneath the rover deck on Sol0.  This type of image is known as a cylindrical projection. The simplest way to imagine a cylinder projection is to think of an image that has been wrapped around a cylinder and then flattened out.
When the Hazcam image is projected in this way, it creates the impression that the viewer is sitting underneath the rover and slightly behind the cameras. / NASA /)

Receiving Rich Data… / Curiosity

  • “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 Coronation is the first use of the technique in interplanetary exploration. / Curiosity /

Curiosity(This 360-degree image shows a complete, full-resolution panorama around NASA’s Curiosity rover, taken by the Navigation cameras. The pointy rim of Gale Crater can be seen as a lighter strip along the top right of the image. The base of Mount Sharp can be seen along the top left. / NASA /)

Curiosity Is Searching For Microbial Life…

  • Curiosity landed on Mars two weeks ago, beginning a two-year mission using 10 instruments to assess whether a carefully chosen study area inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
  • ChemCam was developed, built and tested by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by the French national space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and research agency, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project, including Curiosity, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the rover. / Curiosity /

(Source of Images: NASA / Curiosity /)

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