NASA's Curiosity rover debuted its ChemCam laser by firing the tool at a nearby rock called 'Coronation'.
The instrument hit the rock 30 times with small laser pulses, each delivering a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. This energy produces a spark which can be picked up and analyzed by the rover's on board spectrometers. While scientists don't expect to find anything particularly interesting in this initial test, the move has helped them to calibrate the instruments and check that everything is working as it should.
"We got a great spectrum of Coronation - lots of signal," said investigator Roger Wiens. "Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results. After eight years building the instrument, it's payoff time!"
"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."
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