science tech space mars rover chemcam laser robot geology chemistry

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.[[MORE]]
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.”

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.

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Txch This Week: Internet Chatter Spots An Epidemic

by Annie Epstein

This week on Txchnologist, we watched MIT engineers move tiny metallic hairs using magnetic fields. The microhairs are made out of nickel mounted on stretchy silicone. Potential applications for the hairs include tunable waterproof coating, anti-glare applications and smart window coating that can control sun allowed into buildings.

Australian National University researchers manipulated wave frequencies and amplitudes to control the movement of particles on the surface of water. The researchers discovered ways to move objects against the direction of a wave. This research could help contain oil spills and even move small boats.

Japanese chemist Yosuke Okamura and his team have created a flexible, sticky coating called nanosheets that is similar to plastic wrap and, when applied to burns, creates a barrier against potentially fatal bacterial infections. The nanosheets can stick without adhesive and are made with a biodegradable polyester called poly(L-lactic acid), or PLLA.

Finally, using nanoscopic pillars of a polyurethane and adhesive mix, researchers at the University of Michigan have created a watermark only visible when a person breathes on it. Soon we’ll be fighting counterfeiting one breath at a time.

Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Robot Self-Assembles And Walks

by Michael Keller

Roboticists have developed a flat machine that can fold itself into an operational form and take a walk. 

Built mostly from paper and polystyrene plastic that shrinks into a memorized shape when heated, the robot can assemble in around four minutes. It can crawl at roughly 2 inches per second and make turns. The work by Harvard and MIT engineers represents the first time that a robot has self-assembled and performed a function without humans needing to intervene.  

“Here we created a full electromechanical system that was embedded into one flat sheet,” said Harvard Microrobotics Lab researcher and doctoral student Sam Felton. “Imagine a ream of dozens of robotic satellites sandwiched together so that they could be sent up to space and then assemble themselves remotely once they get there–they could take images, collect data and more.”

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Satellite Meets Comet In Historic Rendezvous

This is a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A satellite called Rosetta rendezvoused with it today, Aug. 6, after traveling 4 billion miles for more than 10 years.

The European Space Agency craft now sits 62 miles from the icy 2.5-mile-long comet (see a visualization of the mission here) about midway between Mars and Jupiter. The two will travel together on the comet’s orbit as it approaches the sun. 

Rosetta, which also includes a number of NASA instruments, will for the first time in history study a comet up close, put a lander on the surface and monitor changes as it approaches the sun. Among other science to be done, the craft’s Philae lander will drill almost 8 inches into 67P, another first. 

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