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NASA’s Mars probe surpasses 100,000 high-powered laser zaps

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Manned exploration of Mars possible as radiation risk found `manageable`
Manned exploration of Mars possible as radiation risk found `manageable`

Washington – The ChemCam laser instrument aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover recently fired its 100,000th shot.

ChemCam zaps rocks with a high-powered laser to determine their composition and carries a camera that can survey the Martian landscape.

Roger Wiens, Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist and principal investigator of the ChemCam team, said that ChemCam has greatly exceeded our expectations, asserting that the data they’ve gleaned from the instrument will continue to enhance their understanding of the Red Planet, and will nicely complement information from the other nine instruments aboard Curiosity as we continue our odyssey to Mount Sharp.

Curiosity’s laser instrument, ChemCam, fires a short laser burst that packs the wallop of nearly one million light bulbs into a single pinpoint of light to vaporize rock and dust.

A camera aboard the instrument reads the spectral signature of the resultant flash and translates the information into the composition of whatever happened to be in ChemCam’s crosshairs at the moment.

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