Evening all et al,
So today was a pretty exciting day in Curiosity land, and seemed worthy of a little writing.
Today (yesterday Mars-time) marked the first effort on behalf of NASA and the MSL team to employ Curiosity’s many scientific tools on the martian surface, and they did it with FRICKEN LASERS!
Armed with a MILLION WATT atomic-laser, Curiosity blasted away at a small patch of an ordinary Mars-rock code-named, in best Bond-movie fashion – “CORONATION.” I assume they played something by Queen while they lasered it. Anyhow – the rover lasered the shit out of this ordinary rock for 10 seconds, exciting its molecules so much that they turned into some kind of ionized plasma… which the CHEMCAM (short for chemistry-camera, I assume, I’m not a technical naming genius or whatever) which the CHEMCAM then took pictures of with 3 separate spectrometers in order to analyze the sparks and glowing rock dust.
Basically – the laser melts the rock, the camera telescopes the fumes, and by doing that we can tell what distant objects are made of without having to make the rover go right up to them and ask for the info directly.
Now that I think about it, it’s a lot like modern life in general – we’re interested in someone, but we can’t be assed to go talk to them, so we just take creepy photos of their plasma discharge and then study those until we find their Facebook page and then we poke them or like how they like Blade Runner and hope nothing gets too awkward.
Anyway, I got off track – point is – this rock, Coronation, was really just a practice run for the laser and CHEMCAM… just a shot to make sure everything is working order, as they pretty much already knew what to expect from this average Mars-rock, but – it does bode well, especially as this was THE FIRST TIME this kind of science has ever been done on another planet. And what’s more – the info they got back was solid, useful, and in some case better than expected… the equipment worked wonderfully, and the boffins are studying the data as I type this.
Up next for the CHEMCAM will be some of the rocks that were exposed by the EDL’s sky-crane rockets (the greyish divots in photos you’ve seen) in order to see if they’re interesting, and then it’s on to Glenelg… the crater wall with the palidromatical name!
So – a victorious day for Curiosity and for us. We did a laser-science on Mars, we melted a rock with a ray-gun, took a super-instagram of it, and we didn’t even have to move the damn machine. That’s the dream of all mankind.
Here is the NASA RELEASE on Curiosity’s rock-zapping-murderdeathkill, if you want it all straight from a horse mouth.
If you’re looking to high-five someone over this, why not go visit twitter.com/LosAlamosNatLab/ – give a back-pat to the engineers and scientists at Los Alamos National Lab. They helped design and build the CHEMCAM and they’re also pretty much smarter than everyone everywhere.
Lastly – if you would like to read a detailed and truly fascinating write up on the CHEMCAM and its technology, follow this link to : exploremars/chemcam it’s a great primer for some seriously amazing technology.
That’s all for now, awesome people. Go explore something and be good.