Ocean Optics' spectrometers onboard NASA Mars rover

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Three Ocean Optics modular HR2000 high-resolution miniature fibre optic spectrometers are onboard NASA's Martian rover Curiosity. In combination with Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, they will be used to study rocks and soil.

Each of Curiosity’s spectrometers is configured to detect elemental signatures over a different wavelength of light, 240-336nm, 380-470nm and 470-850nm. The use of the three spectrometers simplifies the design and creates redundancy, as many elements under study have spectral lines in more than one of the spectral ranges covered by the three units. The 1,000kg Curiosity Rover has the most advanced scientific instrumentation ever used to study the surface of Mars and the heaviest payload.

About three weeks after landing on Mars, on 27 August Curiosity transmitted back to Earth pictures of the base of Mount Sharp, a 5km high mountain within Gale Crater where the rover landed. It is at the base of this mountain range that Curiosity will analyse rocks using the three Ocean Optics modular HR2000 high-resolution miniature fibre optic spectrometers.

Ocean Optics’ equipment has been used by NASA researchers for missions both on Earth and in space. A custom Ocean Optics spectrometer was used to detect the presence of water ice on the moon during the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission. The company’s modular Jaz spectrometer scaled Mount Everest with a team that included NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to measure solar irradiance at extreme altitude.