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Curiosity rover warms up its laser with basaltic rock blast

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
August 20, 2012
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Intrepid 6-wheeler Curiosity perhaps protested too much when it tweeted "Yes, I've got a laser beam attached to my head. I'm not ill tempered; I zapped a rock for science." NASA turned the rover's high-powered laser loose with 30 pulses of a million watts each, reducing a thin layer of the chosen stone, dubbed N165 "Coronation," to plasma. The resulting spectrum was then analyzed by the on-board "ChemCam" to determine its composition, and the US/French team who developed the system said it's working even better on Mars than it did on terra firma. The results are now being studied, but if we had a laser beam on another planet, we'd be firing it all over the place -- in the name of "science," of course.

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