GOLETA, Calif., March 25 -- Raytheon's miniature thermal emission spectrometers are playing a key role in NASA's ongoing Mars exploration rover project by examining the mineral composition of the Mars environment. The company said both mini-TES instruments, installed on Spirit and Opportunity, NASA's twin robot geologists, have been operating successfully since the rovers landed on Mars in January.
Mini-TES is a compact, high-power sensor that will collect a variety of data on Mars' physical composition and atmosphere, helping scientists to evaluate whether its environment was ever conducive to life. Using infrared technology, the sensors remotely examine the mineral makeup of the surrounding rocks and soil to identify the mineralogy of geologic materials including silicates, carbonates, sulfates, phosphates, oxides and hydroxides. The spectrometers will also measure the lower atmosphere boundary layer and provide information on suspended dust, water ice and water vapor opacity.
"The two mini-TES instruments we've put on the surface of Mars are the culmination of 20 years of collaboration between Raytheon and Arizona State University (ASU)," said Phil Christensen, ASU professor of geology and principal
investigator for the mini-TES program. "For me, this has been a remarkable opportunity to work with some of the most talented people I've ever known and accomplish things that were beyond my wildest dreams."
The instruments are a miniaturized version of the TES developed for the Mars Global Surveyor mission launched in 1996. Raytheon said TES has been successfully providing data to scientists since it went into operation in 1998, and it helped select landing sites for the current Mars rovers. Raytheon's Santa Barbara remote sensing organization, developers of both the TES and the mini-TES, now has four working infrared sensors operating in the Martian environment, including the thermal emission imaging system on the Mars Odyssey orbiting spacecraft.
For more information, visit: www.raytheon.com