Curiosity killed the cat. And now it turned a space rock into plasma with a laser.

Outasight, man! The Mars rover Curiosity got a chance to go to the gun range yesterday. It tested out its laser by firing it at a rock. MTR talked to Roger Wiens, in charge of the laser (ChemCam), just before the rover touched down, and he described its power as a: “million lightbulbs into the spot the size of the pin for five billionths of a second.” That’s just cool, right?

The Verge reports:

According to a statement from NASA, the test — billed as "target practice" for future missions — involved hitting the rock with 30 brief laser pulses, each delivering more than a million watts of power. The barrage transformed the target area into a stream of molten plasma

The test was deemed successful as the laser-enabled plasma was able to detect the rock’s chemical makeup.

That crazy, little Curiosity has a sense of humor too. Its official Twitter account tweeted this after the test:

“Yes, I've got a laser beam attached to my head. I'm not ill tempered; I zapped a rock for science:  #MSL#PewPew

Somewhere, deep in a maze of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, Calif. Roger Wiens has just high-fived everyone in arm’s reach.

About the author

Marc Sanchez is the technical director and associate producer for Marketplace Tech Report where he is responsible for shaping the sound of the show.
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