Ouch! Curiosity Zaps Rock With Laser
NASA tested the laser on the Mars Curiosity rover today, zapping rock N165 30 times in 10 seconds. Scientists have now named the fist-sized rock "Coronation."
Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MSSS/LANL
This image shows the rock prior to being zapped. The point of the test is to study the ionized gas (plasma) that the laser excites to determine the rock's properties using three spectrometers that also are part of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument. ChemCam principal investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) reported that they received "a great spectrum...lots of signal" from Coronation.
ChemCam was built by LANL in cooperation with the French space agency CNES and the French research agency CNRS. The technique, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, has been used in extreme environments on Earth, such as inside nuclear reactors, but this is the first time it has been used elsewhere in the solar system.
NASA will hold two media teleconferences in the coming week to provide updates on Curiosity. They are on August 21 and August 23, both at 10:00 am PT (1:00 pm ET). Audio will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio and http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl. Visuals will be available at http://go.nasa.gov/curiositytelecon.
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