NASA is working on a new instrument that will be used on the Mars 2020 Mars rover,media reported. Mars 2020 is expected to be launched this summer, and NASA is currently focusing on the development of the instrument is SuperCam. It will be able to fire lasers at rocks 20 feet away, allowing some of the rocks to evaporate.
Scientists will study the vaporized rock emissions to determine whether there are minerals in the form of liquid water. NASA is particularly interested in clay, carbonates and sulfates. Scientists will also use information from SuperCam to decide whether to get the core from the probe’s sample caching system. Mars 2020 will collect these core samples in metal tubes and store them in predetermined locations for use in future missions.
SuperCam is an upgrade to The Curiosity ChemCam, which uses an infrared laser beam to heat its target to about 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This method is called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). By evaporating the material, the camera can determine the chemical composition of the rocks from the plasma produced.
It is understood that SuperCam will use artificial intelligence to find target rocks, with the advantage of being able to target rock features with great precision.
SuperCam also has a microphone that scientists can use to hear the sound of lasers hitting the target. The sound changes due to the material properties of the rock.