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Space & Astronomy

Mars rover zaps rock with laser beam

By T.K. Randall
August 21, 2012 · Comment icon 13 comments

Image Credit: NASA
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. "


Source: NASA | Comments (13)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 12 years ago
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 h... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Khaleid 12 years ago
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?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Hazzard 12 years ago
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,... Cont... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Uncle Sam 12 years ago
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... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Khaleid 12 years ago
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?
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 12 years ago
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": Calibrations, Data, and OperationsCalibration 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 approxi... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by Khaleid 12 years ago
Thanks for the enlightening insight Waspie
Comment icon #11 Posted by ealdwita 12 years ago
"Ja, iss definitely a rock!"
Comment icon #12 Posted by meankitty 12 years ago
... (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.
Comment icon #13 Posted by DONTEATUS 12 years ago
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 ?


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