CHEMCAM INSTRUMENT ON MSL ROVER
CHEMCAM is an instrument performing the elemental analysis of rocks and soils around the rover Curiosity as far as 9 meters. It uses Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy technique (LIBS). A powerful laser shot a target which cause the fusion of the material and the apparition of a plasma that is detected by UV-visible spectroscopy. This new technique never flown enables to perform the first selective analysis of surounding rocks on Mars without having to move the rover. After using information from CHEMCAM, the rover will be able to come near a rock to perform more detailled analyses. The experiment is also equiped with a camera (RMI : Remote Micro-Imager) which provides a high resolution image of the sample to describe the context of the LIBS measurement.
The instrument operation principle is thus the following:
Aim at a sample (distance between 2-9 m)
Take an image of the sample (around 750 nm).
Send the pulsed laser beam toward this sample (1 GW/cm²)
Collect the light emitted by the sample for a spectral analysis (between 250-800 nm)
Roger Wiens, PI from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), is responsible for CHEMCAM instrument. Sylvestre Maurice, Deputy-PI from IRAP (ex-CESR), is responsible for CHEMCAM french contribution: CHEMCAM-MU ("Mast Unit" constituted of a laser, a telescope, an RMI camera and the associate electronics).