The Chemistry and Camera tool is known as ChemCam. ChemCam's laser, camera and spectrograph work together to identify the chemical and mineral composition of rocks and soils.
|Main Job||To analyze the chemical composition of rocks and soil.|
|Location||The laser, telescope, and camera sit on Curiosity's mast (its "forehead"), while the spectrometer is located in its "body".|
Looking at rocks and soils from a distance, ChemCam fires a laser and analyzes the elemental composition of vaporized materials from areas smaller than 1 millimeter on the surface of Martian rocks and soils. An on-board spectrograph provides 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 also uses 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 has the capability to analyze it from a distance.
From 23 feet (7 meters) away, ChemCam is able to:/p>
The ChemCam instrument has two parts: a mast package and a body unit. On the mast is a telescope to focus the laser and the camera, a laser for vaporizing surfaces, and a remote micro-imager. The mast package can be tilted or rotated as needed for optimum viewing of the rock.
Light from the telescope travels 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 were 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).