Saturday, November 10, 2007

Good MSL News!

Alan Stern, the Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, and Jim Green, the director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, recently made a very welcome announcement to the Mars community. After a lot of work from everyone involved, the cost issues with both the descent imager MARDI and ChemCam have been resolved and the two instruments will be flying on MSL!

MARDI is a high-definition color video camera that will send back footage of MSL's landing. We will finally be able to watch a video of the landing instead of relying on telemetry to tell us what's going on and computer simulations to show what happened!

ChemCam is an instrument that sounds like it could be straight out of Star Wars. It uses a laser to vaporize a small amount of a target rock from up to 30 feet away, then analyzes the spectrum of light emitted by the superheated plasma to determine what the rock is made of. By repeatedly zapping the same place on a rock, it can blast away dust covering the surface, and even drill through thin coatings of alteration on rocks to find out how their composition changes below the surface. Finaly, since it has to have a powerful telescope to collect the plasma light, it is also able to take extremely detailed images from a distance.

It is great to hear that these instruments are both back on the mission. I'll keep you posted with other MSL developments as I hear about them.

1 comment:

cm said...

It is important that we start referring to ChemCam exclusively as "The FLOIFH" (pronounced "fl-oy-f-hhhh"... the last consonant is aspirated), or "Freaking Laser On Its Freaking Head."