pewpew! NASA rover Curiosity shoots a Mars rock with laser
2012-08-20 0:00

From: NBCNews

NASAís Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.

During the target practice on Sunday, Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

Curiosityís social media team made a reference to Austin Powers when it tweeted, "Yes, Iíve got a laser beam attached to my head. Iím not ill-tempered; I zapped a rock for science." Then it signed off "#PewPew," a nerd reference to the sound lasers make when discharged.

This composite image, with magnified insets, depicts the first laser test by the Chemistry and Camera, or ChemCam, instrument aboard NASAís Curiosity Mars rover. The composite incorporates a Navigation Camera image taken prior to the test, with insets taken by the camera in ChemCam.

NASA also released a report describing the laser test. The rock was "fist-sized," and was designated "Coronation." It was, says NASA, "the first rock on any extraterrestrial planet to be investigated with such a laser test."

"Each pulse delivered more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second," the report continues. "The energy from the laser excited atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma."

While this was principally a target practice maneuver, NASA says it may prove to have scientific value, if it reveals details of the rockís characteristics.


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