NASA engineers installed the SuperCam Mast Unit onto the Mars 2020 rover. The instrument’s camera, laser and spectrometers can identify the chemical and mineral targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet.
Mars 2020 scientists will use SuperCam to examine Martian rocks and soil, seeking organic compounds that could be related to past life on Mars.
“SuperCam’s rock-zapping laser allows scientists to analyze the chemical composition of its targets,” said Soren Madsen, manager at JPL. “It lets the Mars 2020 rover conduct its cutting-edge science from a distance.”
Also to be installed in the next few weeks is Mars 2020’s Sample Caching System, which includes 17 separate motors and will collect samples of Martian rock and soil that will be left on the surface of Mars for return to Earth by a future mission.
NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions, including to the Moon, to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. The agency plans to establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
SuperCam is led by Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the instrument’s Body Unit was developed. That part of the instrument was installed in the body of the rover in May and includes several spectrometers, control electronics and software.
JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.