The Mars rover Curiosity deployed its laser for the first time, giving scientists better, richer data than they had expected, the US space agency said Sunday.
The laser strike sent out sparks from the fist-size rock that NASA dubbed Coronation, and they were recorded by the mission’s chemistry and camera instrument, or ChemCam.
“We got a great spectrum of Coronation – lots of signal,” said investigator Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
A French member of the research team, Sylvestre Maurice, said he was surprised “that the data are even better than we ever had during tests on Earth.” Maurice is connected to the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France.
Scientists can analyze the light spectrum to determine the makeup of the objects on Mars.
Curiosity is being readied for its first drive, a short trip to a target area where it is to drill for rock samples, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said last week. By the end of next week, all scientific instruments on board the rover would have been tested.
Curiosity landed on Mars August 6. Its mission is the most expensive and technically advanced ever sent from Earth to the Red Planet.