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One can see why Roger Wiens monitors the website, www.ustream.tv/nasaijpl, on a continuous basis. The site provides a camera into the clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the next Mars rover is being built.
Wiens, a geochemist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, has more than a vested interest. Wiens serves as ChemCam’s principal investigator and he makes occasional trips to California to check on the rover, which is named Curiosity.
So what is ChemCam exactly?
It is a rock-zapping laser instrument that can hit rocks with a laser powerful enough to excite a pinhead-size spot into a glowing, ionized gas. ChemCam then observes the flash through a telescope and analyzes the spectrum of light to identify the chemical elements in the target.
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