The MSL mission (Mars Science Laboratory) of the U.S. space agency (NASA), is a mobile robot to explore the Martian surface. This machine, three times heavier than its predecessors, is designed as a laboratory to analyze precisely the Martian rocks. Of the 10 instruments on board, the IRAP contributes greatly to the instrument ChemCam (elemental analysis of rocks up to 10m), and France is also involved in SAM (mineral and atmospheric analysis).

Onboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, the ChemCam instrument will help us understand whether rocks and soils on Mars have been altered by water and contain chemicals necessary for life.

IRAP Responsible : Sylvestre Maurice


Mars Rover Curiosity in Artist's Concept

The instrument : 

ChemCam uses the technique of spectroscopic analysis in the ultraviolet and visible domains associated with laser ablation (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, LIBS): a power laser shoots at a target, causing the melting of the material and the appearance of a plasma which is observed at a distance. This innovative technique in the field of planetology will help to select the most relevant rocks within 9m before moving the robot.

The collaborations : 

Issued from a scientific project of the planetary pole of the Midi-Pyrenees Observatory, it took five years to complete the instrument (laser, electronic telescope) under the leadership of the CESR next IRAP. The flight model was delivered in July 2008 and will be integrated into the mast of the robot. The spectrometers are under the responsibility of R. Wiens at LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory). The French team will also take part in the daily operations of the instrument, and of course in the scientific analysis of the observations.

Further details :

The ChemCam instrument has landed on Mars in August 2012. Follow the saga of the rover and the scientific results expected on the dedicated website.

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