Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 20 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: ChemCam Rasters

26 August 2012

Today we received data from the first ChemCam “rasters,” in this case 5 laser shots in a row on 3 different targets. We were glad to see this capability demonstrated on Mars, because we would like to use it a lot in the future. The laser is focused on a spot less than 1 mm across, and the chemistry of rocks and soils is commonly variable on the millimeter scale. So multiple samples are needed to properly characterize the elemental composition of each target, and the laser rasters will be useful in this regard.

The SAM atmospheric sample test ran to completion, verifying that many parts of this complicated instrument are working well. This was the last SAM characterization test planned, and the team applauded the achievement of this milestone. For this test a bit of Earth’s atmosphere was carried to Mars, and analyzed successfully as planned. Now SAM is ready to acquire and measure a sample of the Martian atmosphere.

I was sorry to hear today that Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, passed away. His “small step” represented the culmination of an amazing effort that inspired me as a child and helped lead me toward a career in space exploration. I hope that NASA continues to inspire young people with achievements such as the MSL mission.

I plan to take a day off tomorrow, before I begin a string of tactical shifts on Monday. I’ll send my next update when I’m back on shift.

Ken