Exploring Mars with the Curiosity Rover and its Laser
Dr. Roger Wiens, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico
Tuesday, March 4 SB110
The one-ton Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars for the last 18 months, having already found evidence for an ancient freshwater lake in 90-mile-wide Gale crater. The rover carries 10 instruments designed to study the martian environment and to search for organic materials. Perhaps the most frequently used instrument is ChemCam (Chemistry + Camera), led by Dr. Wiens. It focuses powerful laser pulses on rocks or soils up to 25 feet away. The ablated material creates a small flash, the light from which is collected to determine the composition of the samples. Since the landing in 2012 ChemCam has analyzed some 3,000 locations and taken over 1,500 high-resolution images along the rover’s path. The ultimate goal of the mission is Mt. Sharp, a 3-mile high mountain of martian sedimentary strata expected to hold clues to Mars’ climate history and habitability. The talk will describe how and why we are exploring Mars and what we are discovering.