August 19: Curiosity zaps its first Martian rock
Curiosity uses its laser for the first time to zap a rock “Coronation.” What a fitting name! Curiosity is the crowning achievement of NASA/ JPL for missions in Mars exploration in recent years. Curiosity’s ChemCam, or Chemistry and Camera equipment hit the fist-sized “Coronation” with 30 pulses (Each pulse = more than 1 million watts in five one-billionths of a second!) of laser in a 10-second period. By exciting atoms in “Coronation” into a glowing plasma, ChemCam can capture the light with a telescope and analyze the rock with three spectrometers to determine its elemental composition. If the composition changed as the pulses progressed, then dust or other surface material covered the rock. ChemCam uses laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, which can determine the composition of targets in extreme environments, such as on sea-floor, and is used in experimental applications in cancer detection and environmental monitoring. For its 2-year mission, Curiosity will continue to use its spectacular 10 instruments to determine whether Gale crater ever offered suitable environmental conditions for life.
Webster, Guy. “Rover’s Laser Instrument Zaps First Martian Rock.” NASA. NASA, 19 Aug 2012. Web. 20 Aug 2012.