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LANL: SuperCam One Step Closer To Mars

on April 30, 2019 - 8:14am

The SuperCam has completed testing and evaluation at LANL and is on its way to JPL for full system integration. Courtesy/LANL

LANL News:

The SuperCam instrument – designed, built and tested at Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with the French Space Agency – and destined for the exploration of Mars – has completed testing and evaluation at Los Alamos and is on its way to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for full system integration. 

The SuperCam instruments left Los Alamos Monday, April 29. SuperCam will be one of two* Los Alamos instruments on the next rover, called Mars 2020, an upgraded version of the current rover on Mars, Curiosity. 

SuperCam consists of a "mast unit" and "body unit, the mast unit, mounted on a mast on the exterior of the rover, is essentially a telescope with a laser, an extremely advanced version of Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, or LIBS, a technology invented at Los Alamos.

The laser blasts a tiny portion of a geological formation, both rocks and soils on Mars, creating a plasma. The telescope then captures the spectra of the light emitted by the plasma. 

The body unit, mounted inside the body of the rover, is essentially a sophisticated spectrometer, and uses the light spectra to determine both the elemental and molecular composition of the sample, along with physical properties like hardness.

Launch of the Mars 2020 mission is scheduled for late July, 2020, followed by the landing on Mars in February of 2021.

Video describing the project:

*The other Los Alamos instrument, called SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), is a Raman spectrometer paired with an ultraviolet laser and imager that is designed to investigate Martian mineralogy and detect organic compounds as part of the Mars 2020 rover mission. SHERLOC was delivered to JPL in June of 2018.