Thursday, August 9, 2012

MSL ChemCam

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It has been an exciting few days for the Mars Science Laboratory team.  Ever since the successful landing of the Curiosity rover at the beginning of this week, there has been a constant stream of information regarding the mission.  Daily press conferences, consistent updates on social media websites, and, for a touch of fun, a barrage of edited images with MSL (such as Curiosity killing cats or Marvin the Martian investigating the over) have kept most of us space nerds pretty busy with our fanaticizing about the mission.

I honestly was one of those people who was a bit worried about the EDL system.  The sky crane was a complex feat of engineering; the fact that it worked is not only amazing but also humbling.  One thing I was not worried about was the awesomeness of the mission if the rover landed safely and operated as planned.  Today's article on Astrobiology Magazine discusses the ChemCam instrument on Curiosity (Astrobiology Magazine Thursday, Aug. 9th).  This is one instrument that I've been totally excited for.  ChemCam will vaporize rock targets up to 7 meters away with a pulsed laser and then will analyze the chemical signatures given off by elements within the rock when their electrons are excited by the laser and then re-emit the light, which a telescopic camera on the instrument can detect.  I know, super awesome!  This instrument is one nerd dream come true.  The rover can get around and use instrumentation on-board to analyze it's local surroundings, but ChemCam will allow for spectroscopic analyses from several meters away!  Superb!  I can feel the nerd in me salivating just thinking about it.

For more info, check out the ChemCam instrument's homepage: ChemCam

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