Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam)
Looking at rocks and soils from a distance, ChemCam will fire a laser and analyze the elemental composition of vaporized materials from areas smaller than 1 millimeter on the surface of Martian rocks and soils. An on-board spectrograph will provide unprecedented detail about minerals and microstructures in rocks by measuring the composition of the resulting plasma -- an extremely hot gas made of free-floating ions and electrons.
ChemCam will also use the laser to clear away dust from Martian rocks and a remote camera to acquire extremely detailed images. The camera can resolve features 5 to 10 times smaller than those visible with cameras on NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers that began exploring the red planet in January 2004. In the event the Mars Science Laboratory rover can't reach a rock or outcrop of interest, ChemCam will have the capability to analyze it from a distance.
From 23 feet (7 meters) away, ChemCam will be able to:
Light from the telescope will travel along a fiber-optic link to a body unit inside the rover. The body unit carries three spectrographs for dividing the plasma light into its constituent wavelengths for chemical analysis. The body unit also has its own power supply and an electronic interface to the rover's central computer system.
Developing the ChemCam instruments for NASA are the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Centre d'Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements (CESR), with major contributions from JPL, Ocean Optics Inc., and the Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA).