Using laser-based analysis techniques on Mars with the ChemCam and SuperCam instruments

Submitted by soleson on Thu, 10/15/2020 - 13:47

The NASA Curiosity rover has been exploring the surface of Mars for the past eight years, carrying with it the ChemCam instrument as part of its scientific payload. ChemCam is a suite of instruments that includes a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument, which provides chemistry information about geologic materials at standoff distances of up to 7 m from the rover. The ChemCam LIBS instrument has produced over 800,000 individual spectra, an unprecedented number of observations from a single instrument on Mars. With these and other instrument data, we have learned that Curiosity’s landing site in Gale crater once hosted a long-lived freshwater lake that was habitable. As Curiosity continues to produce ever more data, a new NASA Mars rover was recently launched, with a landing date of February 18, 2021. Called Perseverance, this new rover has an all-new science instrument payload, including the SuperCam instrument suite. SuperCam uses a combined LIBS-Raman laser instrument to analyze geologic materials, which allows for direct measurement of both chemistry and mineralogy, thereby uniquely identifying geologic materials. SuperCam also includes a microphone that can record the sound of LIBS acoustic signals, which provides additional information about the material properties of martian rocks. In this talk, I will describe our two instruments, give an overview of current results from ChemCam and the Curiosity mission, and discuss the goals for the soon-to-land Perseverance mission.

Plenary Session