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Imagers, Spectrometers to Travel with Next Mars Rover

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2014 — Imaging and spectroscopy equipment aboard an unmanned NASA rover to be sent to Mars in 2020 will help scientists explore the Red Planet in unprecedented detail.

Arizona State University, led by planetary science professor Dr. Jim Bell, will provide the Mastcam-Z camera system with panoramic, stereoscopic imaging and 3.6:1 zoom capability. It will be comprised of two zoom cameras that will provide broadband RGB color imaging and narrow-band visible to short-wave IR multispectral capability to piece together the geologic history of the rover’s landing site.

“These cameras will be the main eyes of NASA's next rover,” Bell said. “Specifically, we will be able to use our zoom capability to allow us to play a much more significant role in rover driving and target selection.”

An artist’s rendering of the SuperCam instrument to be built for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover mission. Courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, led by Dr. Roger Wiens, will create the SuperCam, which will provide imaging, chemical composition and mineralogy analysis, and search for organic compounds in rocks and regolith from more than 20 feet away using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), as well as Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. The device also adds color to its high-resolution visible imaging capability and visible and IR spectroscopy, and is able to dust off a surface via laser blasts.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., led by Dr. Luther Beegle, will provide a UV spectrometer called Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC). The device will examine fine-scale mineralogy and organic compounds by detecting carbon molecules and aqueous environments with a 50-µm UV laser beam.

The other devices include an x-ray lithochemistry fluorescence spectrometer for determining elemental composition; a set of sensors that measure temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure and relative humidity; and a ground-penetrating radar imager to explore the geologic structure of the subsurface. An experiment will also be conducted to investigate how to produce oxygen from Martian carbon dioxide.

NASA selected the seven instruments from among 58 proposals. The total development cost of the selected technologies is estimated at $130 million.

For more information, visit

A diagram of the scientific instruments for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover mission. Courtesy of NASA.
Aug 2014
AmericasArizona State UniversitycamerasimagingJet Propulsion LaboratoryLos Alamos National LaboratoryMarsNASAResearch & TechnologyRoger WiensroverspacespectroscopyJim BellLuther Beegle

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