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Rover's Laser Zaps First Martian Rock

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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:03 AM

Rover's Laser Instrument Zaps First Martian Rock



www.nasa.gov said:

Posted Image

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. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP
› Full image and caption  › Latest images   › Curiosity gallery  › Curiosity videos



Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Mission Status Report

PASADENA, Calif. - 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!"

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 Coronation is the first use of the technique in interplanetary exploration.

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.

More information about Curiosity is online at http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

More information about ChemCam is available at www.msl-chemcam.com .


Guy Webster/D.C. Agle 818-354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Guy.Webster@jpl.nasa.gov / Agle@jpl.nasa.gov

2012-248



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"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#2    TruthSeeker-Daniel

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:31 PM

So, they don't expect any chemical signatures from vaporized molecules of Coronation, except maybe as a " bonus ", yes ?


#3    SiliRatt

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 11:32 AM

And so the interplanetary war begins...


#4    pallidin

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 05:28 PM

Wow, it took 8 years to build? Must be something special.
I assume part of the reason is small size, enduring the rigors of the spaceflight and landing, and whatever else.

Wonder what it would do if you shot it at a person.


#5    goodgodno

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 10:47 PM

Although I do thoroughly enjoy this website, this story was in the Daily Mail Science webpage 2 days ago.


#6    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:41 AM

View Postgoodgodno, on 21 August 2012 - 10:47 PM, said:

Although I do thoroughly enjoy this website, this story was in the Daily Mail Science webpage 2 days ago.
Firstly, this is not a news website, it is a forum. Posts made here are made by people with an interest NOT proffesional journalists, so the comparison is unfair to start with.

What is interesting, is that you read about this two days ago, especially as I posted that story the same day that NASA released it and the same day that Curiosity tested it's laser. You don't want to believe everything you read in the papers (or on their website).

Of course it's possible that the Daily Mail could have actually been reporting that Curiosity was GOING to test it's laser, which would expalain how you read about it before it happened. Mind you, that story was also posted here as soon as possible after that information was released (i.e. a day before the Mail): Curiosity Team Pinpoints Site for 1st Drive.

If you are going to be unnecessarily critical it pays to at least be right.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 22 August 2012 - 12:52 AM.
typos.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#7    Khaleid

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 05:14 AM

I was wondering something.
Why do they use a Mars rock as a first sample?
Wouldn't it be much more logical for Curiosity to bring along an Earth rock of known composition and test its instruments with that sample first in order to see whether all instruments are still calibrated correctly after touchdown?
Or am I being naive and does this always happen by default and never get reported by the media? (Since the article says "fired its laser for the first time on Mars" I'm assuming they did not test the instruments.) Or is there another reason why this isn't done?

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#8    Hazzard

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:56 PM

View PostKhaleid, on 22 August 2012 - 05:14 AM, said:

I was wondering something.
Why do they use a Mars rock as a first sample?
Wouldn't it be much more logical for Curiosity to bring along an Earth rock of known composition and test its instruments with that sample first in order to see whether all instruments are still calibrated correctly after touchdown?
Or am I being naive and does this always happen by default and never get reported by the media? (Since the article says "fired its laser for the first time on Mars" I'm assuming they did not test the instruments.) Or is there another reason why this isn't done?

One word comes to mind,... Contamination.

I still await the compelling Exhibit A.

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#9    Uncle Sam

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:58 PM

View PostKhaleid, on 22 August 2012 - 05:14 AM, said:

I was wondering something.
Why do they use a Mars rock as a first sample?
Wouldn't it be much more logical for Curiosity to bring along an Earth rock of known composition and test its instruments with that sample first in order to see whether all instruments are still calibrated correctly after touchdown?
Or am I being naive and does this always happen by default and never get reported by the media? (Since the article says "fired its laser for the first time on Mars" I'm assuming they did not test the instruments.) Or is there another reason why this isn't done?

They did test it on Earth first, but they must test it again after landing to make sure it is in working order. Bringing an Rock from Earth can contaminate the chemical composure, obscuring any readings which can show false promise of life. This is a very delicate mission, which involves hunting for any signs of life without any contamination from Earth, which is achieved by building the Unmanned Robot in a Vacuum.

Edited by Uncle Sam, 22 August 2012 - 02:01 PM.

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#10    Khaleid

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 04:58 AM

Well, maybe I didn't really think the wording through. Maybe I should rephrase that so it replaces "Earth rock of known composition" with "uncontaminated sample of known composition, fabricated in a vacuum". :)
In other words, my actual boggle is: How do they test that the instruments are working fine after the long and bumpy ride? I doubt they know the exact composition of Coronation beforehand, so how do they know everything's working fine without trying the instruments on some known sample?

" Well, the earth died screaming, while I lay dreaming " -- Tom Waits

#11    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 03:55 PM

View PostKhaleid, on 23 August 2012 - 04:58 AM, said:

In other words, my actual boggle is: How do they test that the instruments are working fine after the long and bumpy ride? I doubt they know the exact composition of Coronation beforehand, so how do they know everything's working fine without trying the instruments on some known sample?

From JPL's "MSL Science Corner":

Quote

Calibrations, Data, and Operations

Calibration of the LIBS data involves preflight calibrations, postlanding calibrations using the onboard targets, and comparisons with spectra obtained on Mars analogs in terrestrial laboratories. Preflight calibration targets consist of approximately seventy standards, two-thirds of which are igneous standards covering a somewhat larger range of SiO2 abundances than basalts and andesites. The preflight standards also include a range of “dirty” sulfates, and a number of sedimentary materials. “Dirty” standards that are mixtures of materials are preferred over pure minerals, as pure mineral compositions can be easily determined by the occurrence of only the elements present in the given mineral. Postlanding calibrations will be done with the onboard standards described above, and by comparison with both the preflight calibrations and with Mars analog samples analyzed in terrestrial LIBS laboratories. Comparisons between ChemCam LIBS spectra and LIBS spectra from terrestrial laboratories need to be studied, as does the effect of distance on calibrations. For example, different emission lines respond to distance differently likely based on their activation energies. We are actively studying these effects, and we expect to continue these studies into the mission phase.

Source: http://msl-scicorner...uments/ChemCam/

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#12    Khaleid

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:19 PM

Thanks for the enlightening insight Waspie :tsu:

" Well, the earth died screaming, while I lay dreaming " -- Tom Waits

#13    ealdwita

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:46 PM

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"Ja, iss definitely a rock!"



Edited by ealdwita, 23 August 2012 - 06:47 PM.

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#14    meankitty

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 08:05 PM

View PostKhaleid, on 22 August 2012 - 05:14 AM, said:

... (Since the article says "fired its laser for the first time on Mars" I'm assuming they did not test the instruments.) Or is there another reason why this isn't done?

I'd say it means the laser had been likely fired before, just not on Mars.

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#15    DONTEATUS

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 08:30 PM

I say Blast away ! We need to Blast every thing we can on Mars ! THIS will indeed set off a great debate on whats actually up there in those rocks !
We need data,and lots of it. We need to Go to Mars ourselfs in person!
This is what man does so well ,EXPLORE !
Anyone eles wanna Go ? :tu:

This is a Work in Progress!





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