Curiosity interrogates a rock with its million watts ChemCam laser

first_imgEarlier this month NASA managed to successfully land the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars following 7 minutes of terror and the most complex landing procedure yet achieved. Since then we’ve seen shots of the Martian surface, as well as video and images of the actual landing itself.Curiosity has now received a software update and is ready to start work, and its first task was completed yesterday. NASA instructed Curiosity to interrogate a fist-sized rock they have called Coronation. In order to do that the rover used the Chemistry and Camera instrument (ChemCam)–a scientific instrument developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and capable of firing a laser in order to figure out the composition of different objects.The ChemCam is an impressive bit of kit. Over a 10 second period it managed to fire a pulse at the Coronation rock 30 times. Each pulse amounts to more than a million watts applied for five one-billionths of a second each.The camera part of ChemCam comes into use after the laser has fired. The area of rock hit by the laser becomes a glowing plasma which the camera focuses on using a telescope and analyzes the light given off. Using three spectrometers (one for visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light), ChemCam can determine what elements are contained within the rock.As no direct interaction is required with rocks for ChemCam to work, it is expected thousands of “targets” will be analyzed in this way over the course of Curiosity’s 24 month mission.Read more at NASAlast_img