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Lab Spotlight: LANL - ChemCam

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  Roger Wiens removes the laser safety plug on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s ChemCam Mast Unit, used on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, to characterize geology, atmosphere and environmental conditions and to identify biosignatures on Mars. Wiens removes the plug (left) while Bruce Barraclough sits at the command console (right). ChemCam fires a powerful laser to vaporize rocks and then uses its spectrometer to analyze the samples. ChemCam’s instrument package consists of two remote sensing instruments: the first planetary science laser-induced breakdown spectrometer and a remote micro-imager. ChemCam is designed to look for lighter elements such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, all of which are crucial for life. The system can provide immediate, unambiguous detection of water as well as carbon, a basic building block of life.
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