"Exploring Mars with the Curiosity Rover"


Dr. Sam Clegg’s ongoing experience with the ChemCam on the Curiosity Rover. 

SamCleggMeet a real-life rocket scientist and let's vaporize celestial rocks with laser beams! Dr. Clegg is a CSU, Chico alumnus. Dr. Sam Clegg graduated from California State University, Chico with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1992. After leaving CSU, Chico, Sam earned a M.S. in Chemistry from San Jose State University and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Indiana University. He was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago as well as Sandia National Laboratories’ Combustion Research Facility. Sam is now a member of the technical staff in the Chemistry Division’s Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

ChemCam is a suite of remote sensing instruments, and as the name implies, ChemCam is actually two different instruments combined as one: a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope. The purpose of the LIBS instrument is to provide elemental compositions of rock and soil, while the RMI will give ChemCam scientists high-resolution images of the sampling areas of the rocks and soil that LIBS targets. The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample from up to 7 m away, vaporizing a small amount of it with about 50 to 75 5-nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then observing the spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock.

ChemCam is a suite of remote sensing instruments, and as the name implies, ChemCam is actually two different instruments combined as one: a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope. The purpose of the LIBS instrument is to provide elemental compositions of rock and soil, while the RMI will give ChemCam scientists high-resolution images of the sampling areas of the rocks and soil that LIBS targets. The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample from up to 7 m away, vaporizing a small amount of it with about 50 to 75 5-nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then observing the spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock.

ChemCam has the ability to record up to 6,144 different wavelengths of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared lightchemcam. Detection of the ball of luminous plasma will be done in the visible, near-UV and near-infrared ranges, between 240 nm and 800 nm. The first initial laser testing of the ChemCam by Curiosity on Mars was performed on a rock, N165 ("Coronation" rock), near Bradbury Landing on August 19, 2012.

The ChemCam team expects to take approximately one dozen compositional measurements of rocks per day.

Using the same collection optics, the RMI provides context images of the LIBS analysis spots. The RMI resolves 1 mm objects at 10 m distance, and has a field of view covering 20 cm at that distance.  The ChemCam instrument suite was developed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French CESR laboratory. The flight model of the mast unit was delivered from the French CNES to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Simply stated, ChemCam will tell us what the rocks are made of in the Curiosity rover’s landing region. The primary objectives of ChemCam are to rapidly analyze rocks and soil to determine their compositions and to identify samples that would be of greatest interest to scientists for analysis by other instruments onboard Curiosity.

To learn more about ChemCam and the Curiosity Rover please follow this link

http://www.msl-chemcam.com/index.php#.UXA0hcppnDk