- The NASA Perseverance rover’s SuperCam instrument delivered its first results earlier this week.
- Lazer shootings determined the nature of the rock targets being examined.
- Insider takes a look at the six-wheeled robot’s latest developments.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
NASA’s Perseverance rover’s SuperCam science instrument delivered its first-results earlier this week, after lazer-shooting a target rock.
The SuperCam is a device that studies rocks and soil with a camera, lazer, and spectrometers to identify organic compounds that could be related to past life on Mars. It can identify the atomic and molecular makeup of targets as far as 20 feet away, NASA reported.
The high-intensity lazer is a technique that has also been deployed by NASA’s previous rover, Curiosity.
On Thursday, NASA released an audiotape of its rover zapping a target rock named “Máaz.” The recording of the lazer strikes has allowed scientists to uncover more useful information, including the hardness of the subjects being examined. “If we tap on a surface that is hard, we will not hear the same sound as when we fire on a surface that is soft,” said Naomi Murdoch, from the National Higher French Institute of Aeronautics and Space, in Toulouse, per BBC News.
Scientists were able to reveal that Máaz was basaltic, meaning it contained a substantial amount of magnesium and iron, BBC News reported.
They are yet to discover whether the “rock itself is igneous, ie volcanic, or perhaps if it is a sedimentary rock made up of igneous grains that were washed downriver into Jezero lake and cemented together,” said SuperCam chief investigator, Roger Wiens, in a BBC News report.
Perseverance’s key developments so far
Since its historical landing last month, the Perseverance rover has delivered a range of high-resolution images and audio recordings from the Martian terrain to Earth.
One of the rover’s first developments was its camera providing front and rear images of Perseverance’s successful landing on Mars. This was followed by audio recordings from microphones that were attached to the rover. They revealed the sounds of a Martian breeze – the first sounds in history to be recorded on the planet.
The wind was gusting at 5 meters per second (11 mph), according to Dave Gruel, NASA’s lead engineer for Perseverance’s camera and microphone systems.
A 360-degree panorama taken by the rover’s Mastcam-Z tool was another key establishment, as it allowed people to take a full look around the robot’s home in Jezero Crater.
Earlier this month, the six-wheeled robot went for its first drive on Mars. As it drove, the rover snapped shots of its wheel tracks in the dirt behind it. NASA’s Perseverance engineers and scientists are already planning routes for the rover to travel in order to reach the river delta that once fed Lake Jezero, as Insider previously reported.
“Our first drive went incredibly well,” said Anais Zarifian, who works on the rover’s mobility team, in a press briefing. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks, and I’ve seen a lot of them.”