Rover's ChemCam instrument gets sharper vision

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s “ChemCam” instrument recently got a major capability fix, as Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists uploaded a software repair for the auto-focus system on the instrument.
“Last November we discovered that a small laser used to focus the ChemCam telescope on its targets had failed” said Roger Wiens, instrument lead at LANL. “Without this laser rangefinder, the ChemCam instrument was somewhat blind. The main laser that creates flashes of plasma when it analyzes rocks and soils up to 25 feet from the rover was not affected,” he said, “but the laser analyses only work when the telescope projecting the laser light to the target is in focus.”
The team knows approximate distances to each target, but this information is not accurate enough to provide an in-focus image.
Since November the team had limped along by taking nine images, each at a different focus, for every target. The data that was returned contained eight blurry images and one in focus, “a rather poor return for the effort and time, but better than nothing,” Wiens said.

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