A first Thales laser has been operating on Mars since Aug 2012
In 2012, NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, equipped with the first high-power laser ever to operate on the surface of another planet. Designed and developed by Thales, the ChemCam laser has been operating faultlessly for over ten years and has fired more than 875,000 shots at the surface of the Red Planet. Data from ChemCam has already helped to prove that conditions on Mars were once suitable for microbial life.
A second Thales laser on Martian soil
Everyone at Thales, along with NASA, CNES and IRAP, watched in wonder as the Perseverance rover landed successfully on the surface of Mars on Thursday, 18 February, 2021 a tense but decisive moment in NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
Perseverance joins Curiosity, which has been operating on Mars for over nine years. The laser on the new planetary rover's SuperCam instrument will work in conjunction with Curiosity’s ChemCam laser. Two feats of technology from Thales are now on Mars, about 3,000 km apart, both searching for signs of past life!
The SuperCam instrument, a new and more powerful version of ChemCam, is designed to take Mars exploration to a new level. Like ChemCam, the SuperCam laser uses an infrared beam to heat material to a temperature of around 10,000°C and vaporise it – a method called LIBS - Laser-Induced Breakdown spectroscopy. Coupled with a special camera, this technology makes it possible to determine the chemical composition of Martian rock samples by measuring the colours of light in the resulting plasma.
Unlike ChemCam, however, the SuperCam laser can also help determine the molecular composition of surface materials. By emitting a green beam, the laser excites the chemical bonds in samples and produces a different radiation signature depending on the molecules that compose them. This analysis technique, known as Raman spectroscopy, tested for the first time on Mars, enables scientists to detect any markers of life. The green laser is also used to induce fluorescence in mineral and organic compounds, allowing scientists to determine their constituent components with greater accuracy.
February, 2022 -the millionth shot for ChemCam and SuperCam lasers !
The two power lasers on board the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers have passed the milestone of 1 million shots fired on the surface of Mars.