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Photonics at work - the Rover Perseverance

22-02-2021

Did you know that five out of seven on-board instruments are using photonic technology on the Perseverance, the rover which landed on Mars on February 18?

Mastcam-Z is a high-definition multispectral camera system for panoramic and stereoscopic imaging with zooming and focusing capability.  Video rate is four frames per second.  It will be used to observe textural, mineralogical, structure and morphologic details in rocks.

PIXL(Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithography) uses X-Ray beams on a rock sample to generate fluorescence.  The spectral analysis of the emission is used to identify the elements and potentially small traces of life contained in the sample.

MEDA(Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) contains a suite of environmental sensors. and two arrays of photodiodes as radiation sensors covering the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared range of the spectrum.

SHERLOC(scanning Habitable Environment with Raman & Luminescence for Organic and Chemicals) is using a deep ultraviolet laser (248.6 nanometers) for Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy. It can detect and characterize organics and minerals. It will be used to assess potential biosignatures.  A camera called WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) has been added for scientific imaging.

SuperCam will be used to remotely identify chemical components of rocks and soil.  This equipment provides various capabilities such as Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy at 532nm, time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy as well as visible and infrared reflectance spectroscopy. 

We congratulate Fiber Tech Optica, a Canadian company, from Kitchener, Ontario for providing the optical fibers used in this equipment.

RIMFAX is a ground-penetrating radar working at 150-1200 MHz with estimated ground penetration of 10m.

MOXIE is using electro-chemistry to capture oxygen from CO2 gas.

This NASA project is demonstrating the importance of photonic technologies and shows the Canadian contribution in this field.

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SOURCE: Instruments - NASA Mars