MessageToEagle.com - Curiosity's laser instrument has fired nearly 500 shots so far that
have produced strong, clear data about the composition of the Martian surface.
The results caused much excitement among the members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team,
including Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.
"The spectrum we have received back from Curiosity is as good as anything we looked at on Earth," said
Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator of the ChemCam Team.
"The entire MSL team was very excited about this and we popped a little champagne."
When ChemCam fires its extremely powerful laser pulse, it briefly focuses the energy of a million light
bulbs onto an area the size of a pinhead. The laser blast vaporizes a small amount of its target up to seven
meters (23 feet) away.
Click on image to enlarge
Zapping Rocks Exposed by the Sky Crane's Thrusters
This photo mosaic shows the scour mark, dubbed Goulburn, left by the thrusters on the sky crane that helped lower NASA's Curiosity rover to the Red Planet. It is located 16 to 20 feet (5 to 6 meters) to the left of the rover's landing position. The sky crane appears to have uncovered an outcrop of loosely consolidated rocks during the rover's landing.
The mosaic consists of six images from the remote micro-imager (RMI) on the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, shown around an image from the Mast Camera for context. Each RMI image has a field of view of 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 centimeters) across and shows details as small as 0.02 to 0.03 inches (0.5 to 0.6 millimeters). ChemCam's laser was used to analyze material at the centers of panels 2, 3 and 4.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/MSSS
The resultant flash of glowing plasma is viewed by the system's 4.3-inch aperture telescope, which sends
the light down an optical fiber to a spectrometer located in the body of the rover.
There, the colors of light from the flash are recorded and then sent to Earth, enabling scientists to
determine the elemental composition of the vaporized material.
Scientists tested the system on Earth in a chamber that simulated the Martian atmosphere.
Some of the initial spectral data from Mars look similar to some of the terrestrial standards at first glance.
In the coming weeks, ChemCam researchers will pore over the data to look for tiny variations among the peaks
and valleys within spectral data captured on Earth and on Mars. These comparisons will allow the team to
fine tune and calibrate the instrument, ensuring that every spectral signature gathered by the rover is accurate.
Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique spectral signature. ChemCam scientists will be able to use
these spectral fingerprints to decipher the composition of Martian geology, including information about
whether Mars rocks ever existed in a watery environment or underwent changes due to interactions with biological organisms.
With regard to Coronation rock (the rock formerly known as N-165), ChemCam's inaugural target, "at first
glance it appears consistent with a basaltic composition," Wiens said.
"What's more interesting, however, is whether the rock had dust on it or some other kind of surface coating,"
"ChemCam saw peaks of hydrogen and magnesium during the first shots that we didn't see in subsequent firings.
This could mean the rock surface was coated with dust or some other material."
With Coronation's analyses complete, the science team had a chance to pick new targets.
"After Coronation, we got to shoot at a group of ugly-looking rocks in the area named 'Goulburn,'" Wiens said.
"That is one of the areas near the rover that was blasted by the thrusters of the landing vehicle, but these
rocks were much farther away from the rover than Coronation, providing a bit more of a test for the ChemCam's
The ChemCam system is one of 10 instruments mounted on the MSL mission's Curiosity rover-a six-wheeled
mobile laboratory that will roam more than 12 miles of the planet's surface during the course of one
Martian year (98 Earth weeks). The system is designed to capture as many as 14,000 observations throughout
Extraterrestrial Life Is A Censored Subject Says Famous Professor
It is not often scientists are willing to openly discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
According to a famous astronomy professor there is a reason why a majority of scientists avoid the subject - it is censored!
Even though the general public embraces ideas of extraterrestrial life, science is expected to shun this subject no
matter how strong the evidence, albeit through a conspiracy of silence.