NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is now on its way to Mars and integrated into one of its rover’s on-board instruments is 3S Photonics' laser technology.
The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft has onboard a rover called Curiosity and its planned to land on Mars in August 2012. Curiosity is capable of rolling over obstacles up to 65cm high and is expected to travel up to about 200m per day on the Martian terrain.
3S Photonics’ laser technology is being used by Curiosity’s Chemistry Camera scientific payload. The French Space Agency CNES, in partnership with Quantel group and the French Space Research Institute based in Toulouse, has designed and built the Chemistry Camera.
The Chemistry Camera is an instrument that analyses the rocks and the ground around the vehicle up to 9m away. It uses a spectroscopic analysis technique led by laser ablation. A laser shot fires at a target causing the material to melt and plasma to emerge. This is studied from a distance with UV-visible spectroscopy. This will allow scientists to decide whether it is useful to travel to a rock and study it more closely.
The other scientific payloads onboard include a radiation assessment detector and sample anlaysis instruments.