The ChemCam Instrument Suite on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover: Science objectives and mast unit description

Space Science Reviews
By: , and 



ChemCam is a remote sensing instrument suite on board the "Curiosity" rover (NASA) that uses Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to provide the elemental composition of soils and rocks at the surface of Mars from a distance of 1.3 to 7 m, and a telescopic imager to return high resolution context and micro-images at distances greater than 1.16 m. We describe five analytical capabilities: rock classification, quantitative composition, depth profiling, context imaging, and passive spectroscopy. They serve as a toolbox to address most of the science questions at Gale crater. ChemCam consists of a Mast-Unit (laser, telescope, camera, and electronics) and a Body-Unit (spectrometers, digital processing unit, and optical demultiplexer), which are connected by an optical fiber and an electrical interface. We then report on the development, integration, and testing of the Mast-Unit, and summarize some key characteristics of ChemCam. This confirmed that nominal or better than nominal performances were achieved for critical parameters, in particular power density (>1 GW/cm2). The analysis spot diameter varies from 350 μm at 2 m to 550 μm at 7 m distance. For remote imaging, the camera field of view is 20 mrad for 1024×1024 pixels. Field tests demonstrated that the resolution (˜90 μrad) made it possible to identify laser shots on a wide variety of images. This is sufficient for visualizing laser shot pits and textures of rocks and soils. An auto-exposure capability optimizes the dynamical range of the images. Dedicated hardware and software focus the telescope, with precision that is appropriate for the LIBS and imaging depths-of-field. The light emitted by the plasma is collected and sent to the Body-Unit via a 6 m optical fiber. The companion to this paper (Wiens et al. this issue) reports on the development of the Body-Unit, on the analysis of the emitted light, and on the good match between instrument performance and science specifications.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The ChemCam Instrument Suite on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover: Science objectives and mast unit description
Series title Space Science Reviews
DOI 10.1007/s11214-012-9912-2
Volume 170
Issue 1-4
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 71 p.
First page 95
Last page 166
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