NASA recently announced the instruments that will be aboard the rover for its next mission to Mars in 2020. Pictured above is an artist’s rendition of the robot as it operates the SuperCam, a device that will fire a high-powered laser at rock targets up to 20 feet away.
A more muscular version of the Chemistry Camera (ChemCam) on the current Mars rover, the SuperCam laser will vaporize minerals to analyze the atoms that are present in the planet’s geology. The same Los Alamos National Lab team that developed the ChemCam will also build SuperCam using the facility’s laser-Induced breakdown spectroscopy that can deduce the elemental composition of rocks from a distance.
The laser’s operating spectrum will also get an upgrade over ChemCam that will let it to run Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy, a technique to deduce the molecular makeup of rocks to understand the planet’s more complex mineralogy and search for organic materials.
SuperCam’s imaging capabilities will also be a step above the current model, beaming back high-resolution color images along with visible and infrared spectroscopy.
“We are extremely excited to be going to Mars again,” said planetary scientist Roger Wiens, who will lead the SuperCam team and currently heads the Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam Team. “More importantly for the mission, I know SuperCam is the very best remote sensor that NASA can have aboard.”