Take a look through Curiosity's ChemCam

Aug 23, 2012 by Jason Major, Universe Today
This (adjusted) image was taken by ChemCam’s Remote Micro-Imager on Sol 15. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

While Curiosity has been getting a good look around its landing spot on Mars, taking in the sights and sending back some impressive views of distant hills and Gale Crater's enormous central peak, it's also been peering very closely at some tiny targets just meters away—with its head-mounted, laser-powered and much-touted ChemCam.

The images above and below were acquired by ChemCam's Remote Micro-Imager on August 21, the 15th "Sol" of the mission. A full-sized image accessed from the public MSL mission site, it's been brightened quite a bit to show the details of the target rocks.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Mounted to Curiosity's "head", just above its Mastcam camera "eyes", ChemCam combines a powerful laser with a telescope and that can analyze the light emitted by zapped materials, thereby determining with unprecedented precision what Mars' rocks are really made of.

So even though the rover hasn't actually roved anywhere yet, it's still performing valuable scientific investigations of Mars—without moving a single wheel. (UPDATE: actually, Curiosity has begun to do some roving—here are some images of its first wheel tracks!)

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Because ChemCam uses a laser, can examine many targets—up to a dozen—within a small time period without having to drive right up to them. Even the dustiest rocks won't pose a problem for ChemCam – one or two zaps with its laser will be enough to vaporize any loose .

In addition to searching for the of life hidden inside rocks, ChemCam will also serve a precautionary role for future explorers by helping identify the potential toxicity of Mars' soil and dust. When one day land on Mars, they are going to get dusty. It's important to know if Mars' dust contains anything dangerous like lead, arsenic (and who knows what else!)

Explore further: Launch pad where rocket exploded back next year

More information: See the latest images from the MSL mission—including more ChemCam pictures — here.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

ChemCam laser sets its sights on first Martian target

Aug 17, 2012

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team have received the first photos from the instrument's remote micro imager. The successful capture of ChemCam's first 10 photos sets the stage ...

ChemCam to study rocks from Mars

Sep 22, 2010

The NASA Mars Science Laboratory Project's rover, Curiosity, will carry a newly delivered laser instrument named ChemCam to reveal what elements are present in rocks and soils on Mars up to 7 meters (23 feet) ...

Nasa Curiosity team pinpoints site for first drive

Aug 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The scientists and engineers of NASA's Curiosity rover mission have selected the first driving destination for their one-ton, six-wheeled mobile Mars laboratory. The target area, named Glenelg, ...

Mars Rover Laser Tool Ready for Testing

Jun 22, 2007

Mars mission Job One: Get there. Job Two: Find rocks and zap them with your laser tool. Now learn the nature of the debris by spectrographically analyzing the ensuing dust and fragments. It’s every kid’s ...

Recommended for you

Image: Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

14 hours ago

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset and posted it to social media on Dec. 14, 2014.

User comments : 0

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.