Now that Curiosity has had its first major software upgrade, it’s time to stop sitting around and time to start getting down to business, meaning actually roving across the surface of Mars and performing some science. And by performing science, I mean zapping shit with lasers, specifically Martian rocks that Curiosity is zapping to determine their makeup.
The Mars rover Curiosity zapped a rock scientists are now calling “Coronation” on Sunday (Aug. 19) to test an instrument that measures the composition of targets hit by its powerful laser beam. The rover fired 30 laser pulses in 10 seconds at the fist-size Coronation rock in order to analyze the results.
“We got a great spectrum of Coronation — lots of signal,” said Roger Wiens, lead scientist for the rover’s laser-wielding instrument at the Los Almos National Laboratory in New Mexico, in a statement. “Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results. After eight years building the instrument, it’s payoff time!”
Sunday’s laser firing was primarily target practice for Curiosity, but early results suggest the high-tech instrument is working well, mission managers said. Data from the test showed ChemCam is performing even better than in ground tests on Earth, they added.
“It’s so rich, we can expect great science from investigating what might be thousands of targets with ChemCam in the next two years,” said instrument deputy project scientist Sylvestre Maurice of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France.
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