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?
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:
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.