CHemCam – identifying and targeting rocks

CHemCam – identifying and targeting rocks – laser technology/laser lenses 

On August 5th, 2016, NASA’s newest rover arrived on Mars carrying a host of state-of-the-art instruments, including the head-mounted, rock-zapping lazer called ChemCham.Mars Rover

Chemistry and Camera complex (ChemCam) is a suite of remote sensing instruments on Mars for the Curiosity rover. As the name implies, ChemCam is actually two different instruments combined as one: a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope. The purpose of the LIBS instrument is to provide elemental compositions of rock and soil, while the RMI will give ChemCam scientists high-resolution images of the sampling areas of the rocks and soil that LIBS targets. The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample from up to 7 m (23 ft) away, vaporizing a small amount of it with about 50 to 75 5-nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then observing the spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock.

Developed jointly at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, the ChemCam (chemistry and camera) instrument aboard Curiosity “zaps” rocks on Mars and analyzes their chemical make-up.

The goal of the Curiosity rover is to determine if its landing site, the 96-mile wide Gale Crater, can, or ever could support microbial life.  ChemCam will play a vital role by allowing the rolling robot to study the rocks’ composition from afar.

“This new capability will give us a chance to analyze even more rock and soil samples on Mars,” said Roger Wiens, principal investigator for ChemCam at Los Alamos. “The science team is not always available to pick samples for analysis. Having a smarter rover that can pick its own samples is completely in line with self-driving cars and other smart technologies being implemented on Earth.”

Looking at rocks and soils from a distance, ChemCam will fire a laser and analyze the elemental composition of vaporized materials from areas smaller than 1 millimeter on the surface of Martian rocks and soils. An on-board spectrograph will provide unprecedented detail about minerals and microstructures in rocks by measuring the composition of the resulting plasma — an extremely hot gas made of free-floating ions and electrons.

The technology of the ChemCam can also be used here on earth by mining companies and oil and gas companies.  With the ability to access land masses remotely, having equipment designed with clear, precise lenses created by UKA will give your scientists and field managers the ability to analyze data without having to spend the man hours in the field.

Specifically, the ChemCam instrument has two parts: a mast package and a body unit. On the mast is a telescope to focus the laser and the camera, a laser for vaporizing surfaces, and a remote micro-imager. The mast package can be tilted or rotated as needed for optimum viewing of the rock.

Light from the telescope will travel along a fiber-optic link to a body unit inside the rover. The body unit carries three spectrographs for dividing the plasma light into its constituent wavelengths for chemical analysis. The body unit also has its own power supply and an electronic interface to the rover’s central computer system.


Universe Kogaku designs and manufactures optical lenses for telescopes, security, high tech and electronic applications. We stock 1000’s of standard lens assemblies and can custom design a solution for scanners, CCTV, CCD/CMOS, medical imaging, surveillance systems, machine vision and night vision systems. 

Posted in Laser Lenses, Military News.