How do you run chemical tests at a geologic site millions of miles away from you to see what the rocks and soil are made of? Curiosity’s new instrument ChemCam, developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is designed to determine how much light is emitted at each frequency by a geologic sample when it’s heated by a laser beam. Since different materials have different light-emission patterns, measuring the patterns shows what materials emitted them.
Slide presentations giving a general view of Los Alamos contributions to ChemCam:
Reports and analysis of data:
Curiosity’s ChemCam does its job on Mars but is to be operated from Earth, initially at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and afterward in shifts at DoE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French space agency CNES. Here’s a description of the workings of the CNES operations center as well as of ChemCam itself: “A CNES remote operations center for the MSL ChemCam instrument”.Read more at the OSTI DOE Science Showcase.
Dr. William N. Watson, Physicist