June 10, 2021

Since landing on the Red Planet, NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has been hard at work analyzing rocks and soil on the floor of Jezero Crater with the SuperCam instrument. SuperCam features a rock-vaporizing laser, camera, and microphone that can gather data from a distance.

This video provides an instrument update by Hemani Kalucha, one of the SuperCam operations team members from Caltech.

The laser pits shown are about .009 inches (250 microns) in diameter and spaced 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) apart. Sounds of an Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flight captured by the SuperCam microphone can be heard in the video NASA’s Perseverance Rover Hears Ingenuity Mars Helicopter in Flight.

For more information on Perseverance, visit https://mars.nasa.gov/perseverance.


Raquel Villanueva: NASA's Perseverance rover has been working on its science mission with the help of the SuperCam instrument, a rock-vaporizing laser and camera that examines rocks and soils. To learn more about SuperCam, we are joined by Hemani Kalucha. She's the Science Payload Uplink Lead for SuperCam Operations.

Hemani Kalucha: So SuperCam looks out of the big circular window---the white box on top of the mast. And it uses spectroscopy, which is just when light excites atoms in a rock and we get unique shifted wavelengths back to us. And so we use a combination of lasers and infrared vision, and that lets us do science even further out than the robotic arm. The lasers reach seven meters or 23 feet away, and the infrared much, much further. And that's not even all. We have a tiny, high-resolution camera and a microphone to hear Mars, and that's how we heard the helicopter.

Raquel Villanueva: And can you talk about some of the images SuperCam has taken and why they are important to scientists?

Hemani Kalucha: Absolutely. So we started by taking out images and spectra near the rover, and as you can see in this image, the laser actually blows away the dust and makes these small pits in the rocks, and that lets us analyze material that's just below the surface of the rock, which is what we care about. And then we can record the sounds of the laser with our microphone, and it tells us something about the hardness of the rocks. And then starting Sol 26, we were able to take pictures of these long-distance targets, like Kodiak, and that really helps the rover team understand where to drive next for more close-up analysis. And these red circles you see is actually the infrared, telling us about the mineral content of these far-away outcrops. So that's how SuperCam figures out more about the geological history of Mars, and we're so excited to see what the laser can do next.

Raquel Villanueva: Thank you so much for joining us today, Hemani. To get the latest updates, follow @NASAJPL and @NASAPersevere on social media, and on the mission website, mars.nasa.gov/perseverance, you can also find all the raw images being sent back by the rover.



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