The ChemCam instrument suite on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover: Body unit and combined system tests

Roger C. Wiens, Sylvestre Maurice, Bruce Barraclough, Muriel Saccoccio, Walter C. Barkley, James Bell, Steve Bender, John Bernardin, Diana Blaney, Jennifer Blank, Marc Bouyé, Nathan Bridges, Nathan Bultman, Phillippe Caïs, Robert C. Clanton, Benton Clark, Samuel Clegg, Agnes Cousin, David Cremers, Alain CrosLauren Deflores, Dorothea Delapp, Robert Dingler, Claude D'Uston, M. Darby Dyar, Tom Elliott, Don Enemark, Cecile Fabre, Mike Flores, Olivier Forni, Olivier Gasnault, Thomas Hale, Charles Hays, Ken Herkenhoff, Ed Kan, Laurel Kirkland, Driss Kouach, David Landis, Yves Langevin, Nina Lanza, Frank Larocca, Jeremie Lasue, Joseph Latino, Daniel Limonadi, Chris Lindensmith, Cynthia Little, Nicolas Mangold, Gerard Manhes, Patrick Mauchien, Christopher McKay, Ed Miller, Joe Mooney, Richard V. Morris, Leland Morrison, Tony Nelson, Horton Newsom, Ann Ollila, Melanie Ott, Laurent Pares, René Perez, Franck Poitrasson, Cheryl Provost, Joseph W. Reiter, Tom Roberts, Frank Romero, Violaine Sautter, Steven Salazar, John J. Simmonds, Ralph Stiglich, Steven Storms, Nicolas Striebig, Jean Jacques Thocaven, Tanner Trujillo, Mike Ulibarri, David Vaniman, Noah Warner, Rob Waterbury, Robert Whitaker, James Witt, Belinda Wong-Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

435 Scopus citations


The ChemCam instrument suite on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity provides remote compositional information using the first laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS) on a planetary mission, and provides sample texture and morphology data using a remote micro-imager (RMI). Overall, ChemCam supports MSL with five capabilities: remote classification of rock and soil characteristics; quantitative elemental compositions including light elements like hydrogen and some elements to which LIBS is uniquely sensitive (e.g., Li, Be, Rb, Sr, Ba); remote removal of surface dust and depth profiling through surface coatings; context imaging; and passive spectroscopy over the 240-905 nm range. ChemCam is built in two sections: The mast unit, consisting of a laser, telescope, RMI, and associated electronics, resides on the rover's mast, and is described in a companion paper. ChemCam's body unit, which is mounted in the body of the rover, comprises an optical demultiplexer, three spectrometers, detectors, their coolers, and associated electronics and data handling logic. Additional instrument components include a 6 m optical fiber which transfers the LIBS light from the telescope to the body unit, and a set of onboard calibration targets. ChemCam was integrated and tested at Los Alamos National Laboratory where it also underwent LIBS calibration with 69 geological standards prior to integration with the rover. Post-integration testing used coordinated mast and instrument commands, including LIBS line scans on rock targets during system-level thermal-vacuum tests. In this paper we describe the body unit, optical fiber, and calibration targets, and the assembly, testing, and verification of the instrument prior to launch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-227
Number of pages61
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • ChemCam
  • Curiosity
  • Gale Crater
  • LIBS
  • Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy
  • Laser plasma
  • MSL
  • Mars
  • Mars Science Laboratory
  • RMI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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