Laser to be used to analyze Mars' soil

July 14, 2005

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists say they plan to use lasers on Martian soil to help speed the search for life and water on that planet.

In 2009, NASA plans to launch the Mars Science Laboratory, a rover lander equipped with a high-powered laser, capable of vaporizing the top millimeter of Martian surfaces, the Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday.

Called the "ChemCam," the instrument combines a laser and a telescope to determine the chemical makeup of Martian surfaces.

Roger Wiens, the principal Los Alamos scientist in charge of the instrument, told the Journal the laser's beam -- with a 30-foot range -- will excite and dislodge atoms from rocky and dusty surfaces. As the atoms return to their normal energy levels, they will emit a bright spark of light.

The telescope, he explained, will collect the light and divide it into the composite wavelengths -- some of which are beyond the visible spectrum -- to determine what elements make up various Martian rock and dust samples.

The technique is expected to substantially increase the speed at which scientists on Earth can analyze the Martian surface for signs of life and water.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Upgrade helps NASA study mineral veins on Mars

Related Stories

Upgrade helps NASA study mineral veins on Mars

November 12, 2015

Scientists now have a better understanding about a site with the most chemically diverse mineral veins NASA's Curiosity rover has examined on Mars, thanks in part to a valuable new resource scientists used in analyzing data ...

The moon

September 21, 2015

Look up in the night sky. On a clear night, if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the moon shining in all it's glory. As Earth's only satellite, the moon has orbited our planet for over three and a half billion years. ...

Martian laser surpasses 100,000 zaps

December 5, 2013

( —The ChemCam laser instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity rover fired its 100,000th shot recently, chronicling its adventures on Mars with a coffee-table-book's worth of spectral data that might rival snapshots gathered ...

ChemCam laser first analyses yield beautiful results

August 24, 2012

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team, including Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, squeezed in a little extra target practice after zapping the first fist-sized rock that was placed ...

Recommended for you

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.