NASAs Curiosity has embarked on a two year mission, and in days to come scientists will unravel unknown facts about Mars. The Rover has zapped its first rock with the help of a high powered laser, beamed to analyze Martian mineral content. Over a 10 second period 30 pulses were beamed at a small stone, the size of a fist.
Each pulse delivering over 1 million watts of energy vaporized a pinhead size of the rock to create a small spark to be analyzed by the telescope mounted on Rover. The ionized glow which can be recorded from a distance of 25 feet away is split into component wavelengths with the help of three spectrometers. This combined system is known as ChemCam.
Analyzing this information will give scientists information on chemical makeup of the beamed rock. Scientists will be examining the data received to determine rock composition, dubbed ‘Coronation’. Roger Wiens, Principal investigator of ChemCam at Los Almos National Laboratory, New Mexico where the system was developed said, "We got a great spectrum of Coronation, lots of signal. After eight years of building the instrument, it’s payoff time." NASA has spent in excess of $2.5 billion on the Curiosity project, deemed to be the most advanced study robotic lab sent to a Martian planet.